Certain Women (5 stars)

Tender and startlingly beautiful portmanteau drama from the great Kelly Reichardt

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Certain Women

'It would be so lovely to think that if I were a man people would listen and say ok. It would be so restful,' sighs lawyer Laura (Laura Dern) after dealing with a difficult client who repeatedly ignores her legal advice in a workplace injury case. At her wits end, she drives the client in question to visit an older white male colleague who gives him exactly the same counsel, which he immediately accepts. Director Kelly Reichardt adapts three of Maile Meloy's short stories that each play with the idea that women have long been carving out success for themselves, even if that fact is often ignored or disrespected.

Courage and determination are traits which all the women in this triptych of tales exhibit. Laura straps on a bulletproof vest to act as negotiator after her client takes a security guard hostage. That she trades herself in to aid the situation illustrates the huge sacrifice some women make in order to get ahead in their fields. Michelle Williams as Gina is also in negotiations, but with an elderly man for the precious sandstone he has in his front yard. She enters his house with a steely resolve to get the blocks for a good price, only to be undermined by her husband Ryan (James Le Gros). Williams has perfected the silent withering glance, and those she directs at Le Gros are wickedly gratifying.

Relative newcomer Lily Gladstone delivers one of the most poignant performances in a film of flawless turns as a lonely rancher who falls for a second lawyer, Elizabeth (Kristen Stewart). After they spend a few evenings together at a local diner, this unnamed rancher takes Elizabeth on a moonlit horse ride along a dusty remote trail that is electrifyingly sexy and dripping with unquenchable desire.

Reichardt has already established herself as one of the best American directors working today, with films like Old Joy, Wendy and Lucy, and Meek's Cutoff. Certain Women sees her cement that reputation, it's a tender, meaty and startlingly beautiful portrait of the American Northwest and the trailblazing women that toil fearlessly against its rocky terrain.

Selected release from Fri 3 Mar.

Certain Women

  • 5 stars
  • 2016
  • US
  • 107 min
  • 12A
  • Directed by: Kelly Reichardt
  • Cast: Michelle Williams, Kristen Stewart, Laura Dern, Lily Gladstone
  • UK release: 3 March 2017

Lawyer Laura (Dern) can’t get a difficult client to listen to her; Gina (Williams) is continually undermined by her husband; Jamie (Gladstone) is a lonely rancher who falls for a young lawyer (Stewart). Reichardt’s portmanteau film about women whose success is ignored, cements her reputation as one of the best American…

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