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Antonio A.B. Grant Jr.
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Certain Women drops us into a handful of intersecting lives across Montana. A lawyer (Laura Dern) tries to defuse a hostage situation and calm her disgruntled client (Jared Harris), who feels slighted by a workers' compensation settlement. A married couple (Michelle Williams and James Le Gros) breaks ground on a new home but exposes marital fissures when they try to persuade an elderly man to sell his stockpile of sandstone. A ranch hand (Lily Gladstone) forms an attachment to a young lawyer (Kristen Stewart), who inadvertently finds herself teaching a twice-weekly adult education class, four hours from her home. Written by
Boats To Build
Written by Guy Clark and Verlon Thompson
Performed by Guy Clark
Published by EMI April Music Inc. on behalf of itself, Ides of March Music GSC Music (ASCAP)
Courtesy of Elektra Entertainment Group by arrangement with Warner Music Group Film & TV Licensing See more »
Greetings again from the darkness. This is surely one of the most intriguing movies of the year that is about women and by a woman. Writer/director Kelly Reichardt (Wendy and Lucy, 2008) has adapted the short stories from Maile Meloy into a film with 3 segments focusing on the daily perseverance of three women in small town Montana (including a rare Wyoming joke).
The first segment has lawyer Laura Dern returning to the office after an umm "long lunch meeting". Waiting for her is her client played by Jared Harris ("Mad Men"). The frustration between the two is palpable. Things take a turn for the worse as the sheriff calls Dern to the scene where Harris has taken a hostage at gunpoint. The issues on display here include the lack of respect for a female attorney, her unsatisfying personal life, and the one-way trust that can happen in times of desperation.
In the next story, we follow Michelle Williams and her husband James LeGros as they meet with a lonely elderly neighbor (Rene Auberjonis) and offer to buy some limestone blocks that have been sitting on his property for decades. The subtlety of the conversation embodies the missing respect and power of Ms. Williams' character.
Emotions are exploding beneath the surface in the third segment featuring horse handler Lily Gladstone as she stumbles into a class being taught by Kristen Stewart, and is immediately captivated by the smart young teacher. Where this attraction leads is further commentary on the challenges faced by those trying to escape the daily drudgery of their lives.
The above recaps don't come close to capturing the extraordinary quiet and stillness that director Reichardt uses in an emotionally powerful manner. These three women are all intelligent and filled with both pride and visceral disappointment each quietly suffering, yet trudging forward with the emptiness each day brings. They each have a feeling of isolation even if they aren't truly alone, and failed or lackluster relationships certainly play a role.
The acting and cinematography (film, not digital!) is as expert as the directing. Ms. Gladstone is truly a standout by saying few words out loud, but speaking volumes with her open and pleading eyes. The nuance of each scene is where the most interest is, and the overall mood of the characters and tone of the stories overcome the fact that we are plopped into these lives with little or no backstory. As each one softly crashes (two figuratively, one literally), we understand these are the faces of strong women who will continue to do what's necessary even if that's shoveling horse poop. The film is dedicated to Ms. Reichardt's dog Lucy (a key to her personal and professional life).
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