ITOL Top 50 Films of the Decade, Entry No. 45: Certain Women

Year: 2016

Runtime: 107 Minutes

Director: Kelly Reichardt

Writer: Kelly Reichardt

Stars: Michelle Williams, Kristen Stewart, Laura Dern, Lily Gladstone

Certain Women: A Woman’s Lonely and Honest Landscape

By Ariana Martinez

Films that progress slowly and with gentle telling are not something most audiences are accustomed to but must allow themselves to experience. “Certain Women” (2016) is one such film, as it subverts predisposed expectations of what an entertaining movie must include. You won’t find indulgent sex, violence, or fast paced-action and editing in “Certain Women”, let alone any Kelly Reichardt film, and you don’t need to because none of those elements are required for such an endearing and honest film.

The movie features glimpses into the lives of four women set against a rural American backdrop. Laura (Laura Dern) is a lawyer with a desperately erratic working-class man for a client. Gina (Michelle Williams) is a business owner who hides her cigarette smoking and has a husband and a daughter who doesn’t like her all that much. Jamie is a rancher who finds interest in lawyer Beth (Kristin Stewart) who teaches about student law out of obligation. Besides Beth and Jamie who have just met, the women share no affiliation, though this does not hinder the connection we an audience develop with each one.

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What She Said:

“Kelly Reichardt elicits every nuance from her small-town characters and leaves the viewer on the verge of reading their minds.”

Kate Muir, Times (UK)

Twitter @muirkate

As the title reinforces, these characters being female is a tender element of the film as each story touches upon the intrinsic experience of being a woman and how admirable that is. In Hollywood films, feminism is often explored through kick-ass women who do extraordinary things. They fight and shoot guns and can defend themselves against evil, whether that be an alien or a robot, or a man. While these stories are important in their own right as they present women as strong, they cannot be the defining example of what a strong or everyday woman is, and “Certain Women” understands that.

This film is about ordinary women who do ordinary things and affirms that that does not make them any less worthy of attention. Not every woman can just cock a gun and shoot the bad guy, and sometimes the greatest enemy in life is not the bad guy but life itself. Sometimes it is the routine or the loneliness or the lack of fulfillment, but none of those obstacles can be shot or even defeated, but rather must be accepted and experienced.

What She Said:

“Certain Women is a timely reminder that another kind of womanhood is possible.”

Elena Lazic, Movie Mezzanine
Twitter @elazic

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The setting is also an organic aspect of the film as the landscape is often the only visual on the screen or the scenic backdrop to one of the characters. You can’t help but stop and take the field, snow, and mountain sites all in and the scenery acts as another way of transporting you into this reality. What’s important to remember is that this is reality in its rawest form, perhaps not your own or one you inherently empathize with, but one that is truthful and faithful to the American lifestyle. Shot on 16mm, the grainy visuals of the Northwest landscape invoke a tragically nostalgic mood, as if we as an audience miss the simplicity of just a person and the land, though the true loneliness of it all still reverberates.

What She Said:

With Certain Women, Reichardt has delivered something exemplary once again.
Sara Michelle Fetters, MovieFreak.com

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“Certain Women” feels as though you are peering into the authentic experience of an average human being; as if you are on the sidewalk and looking through the window of a restaurant where people are sitting and talking and you begin to wonder what living their life must feel like. It is one of those films that provokes you to reflect and contemplate between all the empty silence. One scene in particular with Jamie as she drives her pickup truck is one that truly prompted me to pause and just witness it. Because that is what movies ultimately are, something temporary yet meaningful that we witness, like stopping to look through a window.

The Extra Bits

Where to watch

Google Play: Buy

iTunes: Buy

YouTube: Buy

Who to Follow:

Laura Dern @LauraDern

Lily Gladstone @lily_gladstone

 

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