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
Cahiers du Cinéma named "Certain Women" as one of its top ten films of 2017. See more »
When Elizabeth Travis first starts her school law course, she begins writing her name as "Eliz..." on the blackboard, then wipes it out and simply writes "Beth". A little later a fully written but crossed out "Elizabeth" appears next to the "Beth". See more »
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 and GSC Music (ASCAP)
Courtesy of Elektra Entertainment Group by arrangement with Warner Music Group Film & TV Licensing See more »
Strong women, weak men, strong story.
Director Kelly Reicart knows strong women and the strong circumstances they've faced moving West (Meek's Cutoff) and more than 100 years later the modern Northwest (Certain Women). Big Sky Country, Montana, is the modern setting: Billings, Bozeman, and environs, the places where three women are ignored by men, misunderstood by both men and women, and call many of the shots that may end up putting food on their tables and courage in their hearts.
Although feminists should be proud of the three heroines in Certain Women, their actions are not so much the stuff of heroics as they mostly navigate around misogyny and sloth in a world that mostly listens to men first even if the women are right most of the time.
Laura Wells (Laura Dern) is an attorney with not really a thriving practice, but she gets along. One client, Fuller (Jared Harris), is a worker trying in vain to get more compensation for an accident while he slowly becomes derailed. In the most fraught incident of the trilogy, she must enter a building with a bullet-proof vest to face him as he holds a guard hostage. That she is the one to confront him, and not a crisis squad, is one of the stories' touches that clarifies why the heroines are "certain" women.
Gina Lewis (Michelle Williams) is building a prairie house, part of which will be built with a pile of stones, she, not her husband, tries to convince an old man to sell. Her quiet resolve in the face of mostly feckless men is not so much heroic as it is her certainty that she must be the strong one.
Jamie (Lily Gladstone), a portly ranch hand who falls for an evening school teacher-lawyer, Beth Travis (Kristen Stewart), is the least glamorous of the three (no I Phone for this cowgirl) but with an inner depth that eclipses the other two. Jamie and Beth's evening ride to the diner on a horse is romantic in a subtle way rarely seen before.
If you think I haven't described anything dramatically worthy of a full-length motion picture, you're right. The real drama bleeds out of the actors' interior depictions, the personal strength that overcomes diminishment by the vast plains, snow-capped mountains, and weak men.
Because the three episodes are derived from native Maile Maloy's short stories, Certain Women is a tour de force of feminism disguised as rambling stories of women making a hard living in a hard West. Hooray for them as the cowboys and the horses are not the real forces at work.
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