Certain Women (2016) Poster


User Reviews

Review this title
100 Reviews
Sort by:
Filter by Rating:
slower with some interest
SnoopyStyle15 October 2017
These are three tangentially connected stories. Laura Wells (Laura Dern) is a lawyer struggling to explain to her client Fuller (Jared Harris) his unwinnable case for the last eight months. One meeting with a male lawyer and he accepts it. He's angry and he goes off. Gina (Michelle Williams), Ryan Lewis (James Le Gros), and their teen daughter are living in the woods as they build their house from the ground up. The couple tries to buy sandstone from their neighbor Albert (René Auberjonois). Ranch hand Jamie (Lily Gladstone) happens upon an adult night law class taught by lawyer Beth Travis (Kristen Stewart).

There is a nice uncomfortable disturbing vibe coming from Jared Harris. That's why I don't understand why Laura would go to him. The cops may not care about a defense attorney but she should know better. It's hard to empathize with smart people doing stupid things. At least, the first story goes somewhere. The second story is not as compelling. I might be missing something but it's a misfire. The third story has an obvious end point and it becomes a matter of waiting for the climax. Feeding the animals is not cinematic enough to make the waiting compelling enough. The final meeting is pretty poignant although the actress needs to do some bigger acting at the appropriate moments. The first and third stories could be expanded into a more cohesive movie. There is a contemplative aspect to tying these stories together if only it could illuminate more the point.
0 out of 2 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
"Slice of life" stories of several women in Montana.
TxMike25 February 2018
My wife and I watched this on DVD from our public library. When it was over my wife just said "Slice of life stories."

When I viewed the extras on the disk it became clear that the source work was based on or inspired by the author's life experiences as she grew into adulthood. As such they have not much, if any, back story. The movie just picks up at some significant point in their lives.

Laura Dern is a lawyer, she has a stubborn client, for 8 months she has been telling him he has no recourse for a work-related injury but he persists. Then when they meet with a male attorney and he says the same thing the man says "OK". That segment was mostly a commentary on how women and men are perceived in the same profession.

Michelle Williams wants to build her dream home on a plot of secluded land in Montana, we see her dealing with an older man for a pile of stone he doesn't seem to have any use for. Meanwhile there is tension in the family, it is as if she is overlooking the tension and hoping the new home will make everything nice. Of note, Williams actually grew up in Montana.

My favorite of the three is Kristen Stewart as young lawyer Elizabeth Travis, who took a Tu &Th evening gig to teach "School Law" to educators in a continuing education program, without factoring in that it was a 4-hour drive each way and she had to be at work each day after. Teach until 9PM, get a bite to eat, get home at 2AM, get up at 7AM to dress for work. She meets a lonely young rancher lady who wanders into her class "because she saw people going in." But she seems to want to pursue a deeper relationship which makes Elizabeth uncomfortable.

While we enjoyed the various stories I would not give this movie a very high rating because there isn't much there. It is very well made but seeing slices of lives of other people is marginally rewarding.
0 out of 2 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
lives of quiet small-town desperation, very good but short of great
Quinoa198423 October 2016
This is two thirds a affecting and effective anthology drama about women and how they deal with other men and their own gender. Laura Dern and Jacob Harris take up the most successful story, and Lily Gladstone (who makes a connection, whether it's fully romantic or not will be up to each audience member to decide) the most emotional, and the one that doesn't work is Michelle Williams's segment, where the story feels too flat.

I don't necessarily need a lot of 'stakes', in screen writing parlance, to get through this film, but there's at least with the Dern and Gladstone stories something that is driving the story forward, something firm that they want that can make those moments where Reichardt's camera and editing take on their leisurely pace (some may want to say languid but that's not totally fair.

With the Williams story, where it's about her and her husband visiting an old friend (who may have lost some of his memories) and seeing to get some rocks or stones for their new home, it feels too slight to be substantial, at least to me. Maybe in the original story it's based on there was more to the character descriptions so we could get in their headspaces, or if it made up an entire feature length story we could dig deeper. I understand in the slimmest terms what it connects to the other women in the story - having that constant struggle to persevere with what life gives you, whether it's a nutty client (Jacob Harris' character, one of the best things about the film, which may be ironic depending on what you look to get out of it) - but there still wasn't enough *there* there in such a brief number of minutes.

It may sound like I'm hard on the film, but it's only because Kelly Reichardt is one of the most singular and beautifully low-key voices in American independent cinema, regardless of gender. Certain Women seems to me like the sort of production that used to be much more common at the Sundance film festival in the 1980's, albeit with more of a "name" cast here to an extent, where the focus is about characters facing deceptively simple but significant dramatic obstacles in their small town lives, whether it's finding a connection to another person (Gladstone to Stewart, the former gives an amazingly restrained performance and all the better for it in her context, Stewart too though she's mostly oblivious to any stronger feelings from the other character), or unable to connect (Dern to Harris). That it showed at all at Sundance is swell, though I do wish more films like this were being made/released.
7 out of 17 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
The pace is far too slow
Gordon-1122 March 2017
This film tells the stories of three women in rural United States of America, who all have different life experiences which showcase their resilience and toughness in their respective personalities.

"Certain Women" has three stories which are unrelated. The first story is about a female lawyer in a small town, who finds herself in a hostage situation because her client refuses to accept the outcome of his work injury case. This is the most engaging story, as it has a good story line which delivers some suspense and thrill. the second story is about a married woman who wants to get some stone from a neighbour. This story is very slow in pace and is the most uneventful out of the three. The third story is also very slow, but has emotional depth as the student comes to terms with sudden loss. Overall, I find the pace of the film far too slow, making the film unnecessarily long to fill up screen time.
3 out of 5 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
the power of stillness
ferguson-613 October 2016
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).
86 out of 129 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Strong women, weak men, strong story.
jdesando1 November 2016
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.
33 out of 63 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
a microcosmic film-making in its most auteurist stature
lasttimeisaw13 May 2018
Carving out a sublimely low-key triptych out of Maile Meloy's stories onto the screen, Kelly Reichardt's lucidly orchestrated CERTAIN WOMEN whisks her audience to a small-town Montana, and in each part of the triptych, a woman finds herself flummoxed by a common-or-garden quagmire about human interaction (by turns, professionally, domestically and emotionally) which soberly flouts any sensationalism through Reichardt's brilliant execution.

Laura Wells (a pensive and discomfited Dern), a middle-aged lawyer, is frustrated by the persistent visits of her client William Fuller (Harris, strives for an ostensibly expansive persona but strikingly betrays his disquiet bobbing right underneath the surface), who insists on suing his company for the work-place injury inflicted on him, even after Laura repeatedly explicates to him that it is legally nugatory reckoning with his circumstance, still he won't take her advise seriously, not until he implicates her into a late-night hostage foolery, the episode finds an almost anticlimactic pay-off.

The heroine in the second segment is Gina (Williams, exquisitely smoldering in her understated flair), who is married to Ryan Lewis (Le Gros), and they have a teenage daughter Guthrie (Rodier), their marital rift starts to aggravate when they visit an elderly friend Albert (Auberjonois) to buy a heap of sandstone lined up haphazardly in front of the latter's house, which they can use to build their own abode. If Laura's plight is occasioned by exterior intrusion and social prejudice (people tend to believe an authoritative male figure than a female one), Gina's story tackles a more internal frustration within a nuclear family, stranded inside a loveless marriage (right out of the box, Reichardt notifies us Ryan is Laura's part-time lover), Gina seems to have an upper hand over a biddable Ryan and in negotiating with Albert for their house's sake, but Reichardt's observant camera brings home to audience that she is also invidiously victimized or undermined by the male parties here, not to mention being given the short shrift from the pubescent Guthrie. A scathing but tonally placid critique about motherhood, wifehood and being a strong woman allocates the second chapter ample elbow room (for both Gina and spectators) to breathe and introspect.

Yet, a crescendo is crystallized in the third story, about a young girl, simply credited as the Rancher (Gladstone), whose Indian descent is only hinted, takes a horse-tending job on her ownsome, seeks any ghost of human contact out of her monotonous solitude, she stumbles on a night class of school law taught by a young lawyer Beth Travis (Stewart), who has to inure a four-hour drive (one way) for this biweekly endeavor. An unilateral attraction germinates in hugger-mugger, so how far does one can go to venture a possible reciprocation? Most of the time, the answer is always there, clear as day, but no one can blame you for trying, the newcomer Gladstone kills it in her transcendent reaction shots in response of a bewildering nonevent, brimful of subtlety and unfeigned undertow of heart-breaking, meanwhile Stewart brings about a significant mien of jaded weariness and guarded spontaneity as a wrong-footed, short-changed bottom feeder. Opting for a less elaborately interwoven structure, Reichardt allows each story flourish on its own terms without much fragmentation, and only tentatively suggests the characters' tie-ins (Laura and Gina is obliquely linked by Ryan, the Rancher and Laura has a fleeting encounter in her office, that is all), and most extraordinarily furnishes these heartfelt female-centered stories with an incisive contemporary spin meanwhile upholds her aesthetic integrity to the hilt, CERTAIN WOMEN is a microcosmic film-making in its most auteurist stature.
3 out of 6 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Three short stories
gbill-7487719 December 2021
Certain Women from director Kelly Reichardt is essentially three unrelated short stories, one about a lawyer (Laura Dern) with a client who spirals after his employer has done him wrong, another about a mother (Michelle Williams) trying to secure materials for her family to begin building a home, and the last about a farm worker (Lily Gladstone) drawn to a lawyer (Kristen Stewart) whose night classes she randomly begins attending.

You could say there are elements of desperation and perseverance in each of the stories, quiet little lives underneath the leaden skies and stark beauty of Montana, and there is a certain quiet strength in the characters, which I liked. Not surprisingly, the cinematography is beautiful, and the performances are strong, especially Gladstone's (oh, and the corgi's!-). I was drawn most to her character's story and the simplicity with which she offered herself, even when making grand gestures, as her naked soul tugged the heartstrings. The other two stories were less interesting to me, maybe because they were such vignettes that I felt they needed fleshing out, or maybe because I just felt less of an emotional response. I wish there had been a little more connective tissue between the stories as well, thematically or narratively. All in all, it's a quality film, but fell just a little bit short of great for me.
0 out of 0 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Entrancing and atmospheric in unexpected ways
Red_Identity14 October 2016
Kelly Reichardt surely makes films like no one else right now, and without really trying too hard to be different, edgy, or unique. Her vision and voice just come across powerfully in her films, in their sensibilities and in their unspoken moments of quiet, harmony, and sensitivity. Although I wasn't really a fan of Night Moves, I was of Wendy and Lucy and of Meek's Cutoff. I believe this may be her best film yet. All three female leads (four if you want to count Stewart) do a really fine job. Particularly Lily Gladstone, who is a real force to be reckoned with and who I hope to see in the future again. This is a quiet and tender film, powerful for what it doesn't explicitly say rather than for what it does.
13 out of 24 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
A slow drama that fails to fully engage
eddie_baggins24 October 2017
It doesn't seem as though indie darling Kelly Reichardt will be changing her directing tact anytime soon.

Becoming well known for her intimate, slow-moving and character driven character studies (that more often than not star Michelle Williams), Reichardt's film aren't for everyone but there is often a quiet power to Reichardt's stories that can't be denied.

Hitting a peak with lost dog drama Wendy and Lucy and losing her way with the sleep inducing female driven western Meek's Cutoff, Certain Women is middle of the road Reichardt that see's the Florida born filmmaker examine the lives of 3 separate women in the American state of Montana, each going through their own various journey's in this great big world.

There's barely an ounce of character development or backstory as we're thrust into these women's everyday lives, from Laura Dern's lawyer Laura dealings with Jared Harris's potentially dangerous client Fuller, Michelle William's hardworking mother and wife Gina and Lily Gladstone's The Rancher's strange fondness for Kristin Stewart's class instructor Elizabeth and while these women's stories are intriguing to a sense, there's never a good enough set-up or reward to truly make this intertwining story truly memorable.

As per usual with a Reichardt film, Certain Women looks great in a quietly poetic way and the acting is universally good, without ever delivering any big character moments or situations for Reichardt's cast to shine at their brightest levels but it's hard to fully invest yourself into a film that feels rather emotionally cold and a problem that sometimes manifests itself in such narrative structures, some of Certain Women's most interesting plot points seem to end as we're thrust back into another characters life, making us feel as though we're being a little ripped off by a story that had more to give us.

Final Say –

Reichardt's ponderous and deliberately paced drama will be a treat for her small yet passionate fan base while for the rest of us, Certain Women is a well-intentioned and finely acted drama that never hooks us into its world in a way that would've made it more readily accessible and easily recommendable.

2 ½ short-legged farm dogs out of 5
2 out of 3 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Three stories about four very different women
Red-12513 November 2016
Certain Women (2016) was written and directed by Kelly Reichardt. The movie could have been called "Four Women." It's really three separate movies, with nothing connecting them except that they all take place in or near Livingston, Montana.

In the first episode, Laura Dern plays an attorney who is now saddled with a former client. He has been cheated out of money he deserved as payment for company negligence. The problem is that he has been morally cheated, but not legally cheated. He can't accept this terrible fact.

The second episode features Michelle Williams (who was born in Montana) as a woman who is working with her husband to build a new vacation home. They approach an older man named Albert (Rene Auberjonois) to obtain stone slabs that he has owned for years but never used. It's clear that Albert has early dementia. He understands what the couple wants, and he says OK, but it's never clear if he grasps exactly what is going on.

In the third episode, Kristen Stewart plays a young lawyer, who works in Livingston, but has taken an extra job teaching educational law to local teachers in a town four hours away. The teachers have no interest in what she is trying to teach them, and she is frustrated because she's making this dangerous and difficult trip and then getting about four hour's sleep before she has to return to work.

Lily Gladstone portrays a Native American woman who works by herself on a lonely horse ranch. I assume there's no one else there because the only living thing we see except for horses is a dog. (Gladstone was born and raised in Montana, so there's another Montana connection.)

She wanders into the class where Stewart is teaching, and develops a very real, very strong connection with the lawyer. It's not clear whether Stewart has any connection with the local woman. That's what makes the plot interesting.

This is a quiet movie. It has some exciting moments, but there's no real violence or action. Each plot spins out in its own way. What makes this movie worth seeing is that each of the four women play their roles very, very well. It's a pleasure to see so much talent in one film.

The scenery in rural Montana is breathtaking, and for that reason the movie will work better if you can find it on the large screen. We saw it at the wonderful Little Theatre in Rochester, NY. If you can't find it at a theater, try to find it on the small screen. Even though it won't work as well, it's still worth seeing.

This film has a dismal IMDb rating of 6.6. It's another film where I have to suggest that you ignore the rating, see the movie, and decide for yourself.
10 out of 20 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Honest portrayal of real people
howard.schumann28 May 2017
As depicted in "Wendy and Lucy" (2008) and "Meek's Cutoff" (2010), Kelly Reichardt's characters are lost without a significant guidepost to hold on to, adrift in a society in which they struggle to fit in. Based on short stories from the 2009 collection "Both Ways Is the Only Way I Want It" by American writer Maile Meloy, Reichardt's latest feature, Certain Women, displays the struggle for connection of three women whose loneliness mirrors the economic and spiritual malaise gripping a part of 21st century America. Set in the rural West, the film features an impressive cast that includes Laura Dern, Michelle Williams, Kristen Stewart, and newcomer Lily Gladstone All are complex and resilient characters, yet individuals who resist any outward expression of their inner feelings.

In the first section, Laura (Laura Dern, "The Founder") is a personal injury lawyer distracted by a mid-day affair with the married Ryan (James Le Gros, "Point Break"). When Fuller (Jared Harris, "The Man From U.N.C.L.E."), an emotionally distraught client refuses to accept the fact that he has no cause of action against an employer for an injury suffered on the job, Laura must balance her innate feelings of empathy with her fears that he may become violent. When he takes a night watchman hostage, the police turn to Laura to confront him, an acknowledgment of her personal strength.

In this segment, the open spaces of the West so beautifully depicted in "Meek's Cutoff" are transformed into the spiritually empty local mall with its Starbucks and chain stores, seemingly mocked by a contingent of Native Americans dancing for the customers. In the second story, Gina Lewis (Michelle Williams, "Manchester by the Sea") is in an unhappy relationship with husband Ryan (Le Gros), who appeared in the opening segment as Laura's secret lover. As they plan on building a home in the area, the family's emotional state is reflected in the attitude of her teenage daughter Guthrie (Sara Rodier), who makes little effort to hide her resentment towards her parents, causing her dad to implore her to be nice to her mother.

In their visit to Albert, an elderly neighbor (Rene Auberjonois, "This is Happening") husband and wife attempt to convince the old man to sell them a pile of sandstone that has been in the front of his house for years, property to which he has an emotional attachment. Marital strain is evident in the conversation in which Gina takes the lead, however, but the focus is on her needs rather than Albert's feelings and when Gina waves to him from her car when she is leaving, he simply stares blankly at her through his window.

In the longest and most powerful of the three stories, lawyer Beth Travis (Kristen Stewart, "Personal Shopper") has to drive four hours each way to teach an evening class on Education Law. One of the attendees, Jamie (Lily Gladstone, "Subterranea") is a lonely rancher who shows up each week to the class even though she is not registered. Apparently physically attracted to the instructor, they meet after each class at the local diner, but the conversation about Beth's awful drive to and from work is less important than the poignant expressions on Jamie's face, looks that longingly search for clues that her attachment to Beth might be mutual.

Though not overtly sexual, their ride on Jamie's horse back to her car is as subtle and as lovely an erotic expression as I've seen on film and Gladstone's rich and heartfelt performance deserves to be remembered at Oscar time. Like other Reichardt's films, Certain Women moves very slowly without the aid of any background music to cue our emotions and can be challenging for those uncomfortable without thrill-a-minute action. Viewers who appreciate grounded stories about resilient and intelligent characters, however, will be moved by the film's honest portrayal of real people. It is one of Reichardt's best.
7 out of 14 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
The art of story telling about ordinary lives
paul-allaer2 November 2016
"Certain Women" (2016 release; 107 min.) brings several stories about ordinary women in a remote community in Montana. As the movie opens, we get to know Laura Wells, a lawyer who just had a quickie with her lover over lunch time ("I had a meeting", she says to her assistant upon getting back to the office). Waiting for Laura is a disgruntled client, who feels he's been cheated out of an injury settlement he feels he's entitled to. An exasperated Laura decides to take him to another lawyer for a second opinion. At this point we're 10 min. into the movie but to tell you more of the plot would spoil your viewing experience, you'll just have to see for yourself how it all plays out.

Couple of comments: this is the latest movie from writer-director-editor Kelly Reichardt, the acclaimed indie movie director who previously brought us "Wendy & Lucy" and "Meek's Cutoff" (both starring Michelle Williams, who returns here as well). The movie brings three basically unrelated stories (based on Maile Meloy's collection "Both Ways Is the Only Way I Want It"), and they all involve very ordinary people and ordinary lives that are shook up in one way or another (I'm biting my lips here, but won't spoil anything). The first story stars Laura Dern as the lawyer and Jared Harris as the disgruntled client; the second story stars Michelle Williams as the wife/mother in a strained marriage. The best, though, is saved for last, when we watch with fascination (and heartbreak) what unfolds between Kristen Stewart (as the Livingston, MT lawyer teaching a school law class in faraway Belfry, MT) and Lily Gladsone (as the lonesome horse rancher attending the class). I cannot recall seeing Kristen Stewart being more authentic in any previous role, even as compared to her roles in, say, "On the Road" or "The Runaways". Another major plus for the movie is that Reichardt lets a scene develop. Certain camera shots seemingly last forever. I don't mean to be snobby, but one of the reviews posted here gives this movie the lowest possible rating and compares it to 'watching paint dry'. I feel rather sorry for that person that he or she cannot appreciate a high quality movie like "Certain Women" (it is not a coincidence that this is rated 96% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes).

"Certain Women" premiered at the Sundance film festival earlier this year to great acclaim, and finally opened this past weekend at my local art-house theater here in Cincinnati. The Tuesday evening screening where I saw this at was attended very nicely, and you could hear a pin drop during much of the movie, as the audience seemed glued to their seat and the big screen. If you are in the mood for a top-notch indie movie with several great character studies and correlating outstanding acting performances, you cannot go wrong with this. "Certain Women" is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!
39 out of 64 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Lugubrious plot and stillborn character arcs sink this Montana themed triptych
Turfseer3 December 2016
Warning: Spoilers
Kelly Reichardt wrote and directed this triptych of a screenplay set in Montana, based on a collection of short stories by Maile Meloy. Reichardt is known for slow-moving plots and prefers character studies to fill out her often lugubrious narratives. In each of the three segments that constitute Certain Women, Reichardt's protagonists are women who attempt to maintain a quiet dignity despite being stifled by people devoted to blocking their self-actualization.

In the first segment, Laura Dern plays attorney Laura Wells who is unable to shake off disgruntled client Fuller (Jared Harris), who seeks to re-open a civil suit but has been informed by both Laura and her attorney colleague that he has no legal leg left to stand on. When Fuller takes a security guard hostage at his former place of employment, Laura is called in by the local police to act (in the unlikely scenario) as hostage negotiator. When Fuller lets the security guard go and asks Laura to give him a head start as he scurries out of the back of the building, Laura immediately informs the police of Fuller's whereabouts, and he's placed under arrest.

In the second and least successful of the segments, Michelle Williams plays Gina who is married to Ryan (James Le Gros). Gina is constantly annoyed with her husband who appears to indulge their rebellious teenage daughter. Gina has placed herself in charge of building a new family home out in a rural area—all she has to do is convince Albert, an elderly family acquaintance, to part with the sandstone on his property which she would like to use in the construction of the new home. Albert tentatively agrees to selling the sandstone and soon afterward, Gina's workers come to take possession of it. But when Gina waves to him as her stares out the window from his home, he doesn't react. Did Gina intimidate him into doing something he didn't really want to do? This is perhaps the only real ambiguity in Reichardt's "what you see is what you get" narrative.

The third segment features Jamie (Lily Gladstone), a young Native American ranch hand, who stumbles upon a continuing education class on educational law taught by attorney Beth Travis (Kristen Stewart). Beth amazingly travels four hours each way to teach the class and Jamie ends up taking an immediate liking towards the moonlighting attorney. Soon afterward they go out to eat a couple of times at a greasy spoon but eventually Beth fails to show up at the class, much to Jamie's chagrin. Jamie discovers that Beth stopped teaching because she could no longer tolerate the travel time.

Jamie decides to make the four hour drive to see if she can find Beth. When she finally tracks Beth down, they have a brief conversation but nothing comes of it. Lonely Jamie makes the trek back to the farm. End of segment.

Certain Women is very loosely interconnected by a few plot strands. Laura has been having an affair with Gina's husband, and Beth happens to be employed in the same building where Laura works.

If you can't stand lugubrious plots, Certain Women is an immediate "no-go." In terms of character development (the area where Reichardt is supposed to shine), that part of the narrative is also exceptionally weak. None of the three protagonists has much of a discernible internal arc, except maintaining the aforementioned "quiet dignity." One wonders what to think of Laura and Gina—their egos are intact and they seem to accomplish their goals—despite the obstacles put in their way (in Laura's case, it's resolving her "bad client" problem; with Gina it's consummating the sale of the sandstone and moving ahead in spite of her husband and daughter's "bad attitude"). Yet nothing much happens except for the quiet satisfaction of weathering a few not very dramatic opponents.

The case of Jamie is a bit different. She's the only protagonist who doesn't get what she wants, and is perhaps the only "sad sack" of the three. Sad sacks unfortunately don't make for good drama so when Jamie arrives back home, we're forced to revel in her failure.

If you must see Certain Women, see it for the plush Montana landscapes and the capable acting on the part of the principals. Unfortunately, good parts for women in the cinema today remain hard to come by. Certain Women certainly fails to contribute to such a pantheon.
55 out of 80 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Outstanding and thought-provoking (for select audiences)
I_Ailurophile20 December 2021
I've seen a few of filmmaker Kelly Reichardt's pictures at this point. I've greatly enjoyed them all, but I think this above all is an astounding demonstration of her fantastic skill as a director. The film is so very carefully crafted, with meticulous care for every single shot. Nigh every shot tells a story, speaking to the desperate loneliness and isolation of the women centered in the feature: the wide open spaces, close-up shots, the distance in interpersonal relationships, boundaries between them and others, physical or otherwise - furniture, windows, streets, silence. The paths they try to forge, the connections they try to make; the universality of these complications, rendered here in the most sleepy and far-flung of locations. There is a sense of story, but it is keenly focused as this small series of portraits, and built as much on Reichardt's shot composition as on the actual scenes that play out. 'Certain women' is quiet and unobtrusive, open-ended and unresolved, unlikely to appeal to a large audience - yet absolutely marvelous.

Music is direly sparing, and dialogue nearly as much so. Fundamental interactions between characters feel staggered and uncertain, a further reflection of the social destitution of those before the camera. Everything in the movie is considered with the same slant firmly in mind, with nothing laid plain before us. Subtlety is the order of the day, pervading every last element of the hushed presentation. That goes for the as well for the characterizations, achingly complex but never manifestly exhibited as such, and the performances - all excellent, yet most assuredly marked by only utmost nuanced range. Laura Dern, Michelle Williams, Lily Gladstone, and Kristen Stewart, each in the spotlight to one extent or another, all give displays of acting betraying their characters' simultaneous steadfastness and exhaustion, purposefulness and indecisiveness, with only the most refined and near imperceptible of expression. Just as much as the painstaking construction of the feature is a credit to Reichardt as a filmmaker, so too are the contributions of the cast a swell indication of their abilities.

So subdued is the tone here that I could easily understand the feeling that nothing at all has transpired over 107 minutes. At the same time, however, the tales within - and again, the approach to the endeavor at large - are so absorbing that the feature is over before we know it. At no point does it seem to drag, even as everything unfolds at what feels like a very natural, unbothered pace. With all that said, it's worth emphasizing once again - this is definitely not going to be for everyone. Plot is present but minimal, and every last aspect is defined by the same deeply muted, low-key tack. This is a feature for those viewers receptive to the most reserved and thoughtful of cinema, and for art films that invite analysis and interpretation. If one doesn't broadly care for such pictures, well, you're best served browsing for something else. But for anyone open to the style - 'Certain women' is highly intelligent, exacting, and superb in its making, and roundly engaging, and satisfying. For select audiences, by all means, this is nonetheless well worth checking out if you have the chance.
0 out of 0 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Certain Women is purely indie. There is no drama, there is no comedy, it is just slices of people's lives at which, to some, maybe their dullest moments.
Amari-Sali8 October 2016
Warning: Spoilers
The story is split between three characters. There is Laura Wells (Laura Dern) who is a lawyer for this man named Will Fuller (Jared Harris) who is just a miserable man thanks to a work accident. Alongside her is Gina Lewis (Michelle Williams) who is a woman who, with her husband, owns a company and they are trying to acquire sandstone from a man named Albert (Rene Auberjonois). Lastly, there is Jamie (Lily Gladstone) and Beth (Kristen Stewart).

Jamie is a young woman who takes care of horses, keeps to herself, and doesn't seem to have much in the way of friends. Beth is a young woman who is a lawyer who, through reasons not fully explained, ends up teaching a class on school law in the town Jamie works in. Jamie enjoys her company and Beth mostly is just cordial.


I think every now and then a person should really see a movie which isn't trying to be over the top with the dramatics. For a lack of a better way of putting it, it cleans your palate. It helps you appreciate the lives people live, whether characters or real people, and how even the one or two odd connections we have can mean so much to someone.

For whether it is Laura and Will, Gina and Albert, or Jamie and Beth, one of the things this film highlights is one-half of each set being lonely and may not outright say they are craving attention, camaraderie, or someone to listen, but their actions speak volumes. Mind you, not to the point of crying or bawling your eyes out, but without anything being over the top, it pushes you to really pay attention to find something to grasp onto.

Low Points

With that said, this film was honestly boring as hell. I can try to make it seem like more than it is by speaking on how it focuses on the loneliness of life in parts of Montana but, at the end of the day, everyone is a square peg. For while Will can be slightly erratic, demanding, and likes reminding you how much of a victim he is, no one is really trying to engage him. They talk to him, but there aren't any passionate speeches or stories which make you care about what is going on in his life.

Same goes for everyone else. Albert is old and seemingly coming to the beginning of that point where he may need someone to check on him every now and then. Then with Jamie, she is a nice quiet girl who needs a friend that isn't a farm animal. Each story is sad in its own way and may make you think how luckily you are to have the connections you do have, but everything is so subtle and subdued that I think the appeal will be limited.
19 out of 31 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Terrific cast wasted
nancyldraper24 June 2019
Terrific cast wasted. It follows the lIves of ordinary people walking through their lives (centred around the perspectives of 4 female protagonists). Lots of non-verbal moments. Lots of nothing going on but longing for what is missing (both in the film and in the audience). Big sky country filmed beautifully. I give this film a 5 (meh) out of 10. {Unembroidered Slice of Life}
1 out of 3 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
A good and unique indie film
proud_luddite10 February 2018
In rural / small-town Montana, three stories interact: a lawyer (Laura Dern) seems unable to set boundaries with an ex-client (Jared Harris) who is unhinged and deranged; a rather uptight woman (Michelle Williams) tries to find motivation in building a new home even though her husband and teenage daughter are growing more and more distant from her; a young rancher (Lily Gladstone) is infatuated with a recent law graduate (Kristen Stewart) who arrives in her town twice a week to teach an educational law night class.

"Certain Women" is written and directed by Kelly Reichardt and based on short stories by Maile Meloy. Like other Reichardt films (her best is "Meek's Cutoff" (2010)), this one tells so much in the unspoken word - where a silent reply says so much more than a bluntly worded statement. She is blessed with a superb cast who can make the viewer feel so much with a camera lingering on their faces.

It's tempting to think "nothing is happening" at the beginning of each segment. But once viewers catch on to Reinhardt's unique style, they can see that a lot is actually happening. The Gladstone/Stewart story stands out for various reasons and not just the great acting (Gladstone rightly won many awards for her performance). It provides a great re-telling of the tragic story of someone having a crush on another who aspires to be (or already is) in a higher class in the socioeconomic hierarchy.

Their story, like the others, have a theme of loneliness and isolation even for those who are surrounded by people. This film has a special and unique charm that is quite rewarding.
3 out of 4 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Terribly boring stories
sergelamarche12 June 2018
Independant women like this are a dime a dozen in Canada, especially in the french community. Dependant women are rare! Check french canadian films. So this film was quickly boring after the first segment with Laura Dern. I gave it one more star because the acting was quality.
1 out of 4 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Found! A Movie Impossible to Spoil!
spookyrat114 July 2020
There are a couple of fascinating things I find with Kelly Reichardt's near still-born, minimalist feature, Certain Women.

With a meta-critic rating of 82% and a Rotten Tomatoes score of a whopping 91%, I still can't work out for the life of me, what the professional critics see remarkable in this otherwise non-event of an anthology film. It can't be the non-dazzling, very orthodox direction. It can't be the drama-lite screenplay full of unremarkable dialogue and an unprovocative storyline. It can't be the stirring musical soundtrack, as there is only the very odd musical interlude. Technically Certain Women gets a non - flashy pass. The Montana locations are very pleasing on the eye. The acting is certainly competent, though the cast are hardly challenged by the types of roles on offer. In fact, rather ironically, the actor who stood out foremost to me, was Jared Harris, playing lawyer, Laura Dern's luckless, lonely, persistant, (but indisputably, male) client. The near universal acclaim for this very run of the mill Indi feature, I find quite baffling.

On a more whimsical note, I have to pose the rhetorical question, "Is this a film that's just about impossible to spoil?" The reason being that simply nothing of consequence in the 3 stories, that hardly could be claimed to intersect at any point, really happens. Laura Dern's lawyer deals reluctantly with a long term aggrieved client. Twice a week Kristen Stewart's lawyer, (who possibly works at the same firm) has to also reluctantly teach a night school class, bizarrely 4 hours drive away from where she lives in Livingstone ... and then show up fresh as a daisy for her regular gig the next day. She also has to deal awkwardly with an obvious crush from a Native American girl, who we frequently see working an out of town ranch. Shades of a general exhibition gender reversed Brokeback Mountain! Michelle William's Gina, who we understand kind of wears the pants in her "tenthold", wants to negotiate with her elderly neighbour, with a view to excavating the sandstone on his block, so her and her husband can self - build their dream Montana home.

I really don't think it would have detracted from the stories to add a little more exposition, at the expense perhaps of eliminating parts of the more repetitive "action" (people driving in cars and staring out windows, horses being fed etc). I think it wouldn't have hurt to have found out why Kristen Stewart had to teach that night school class, under such ridiculous circumstances, when she plainly didn't want to do it. Similarly why did Jamie, the rancher girl, become all star-struck with someone who obviously wasn't the slightest bit interested in her? (Jamie wasn't even asked about what she did till their second meeting.)

Finally I'm left to ponder how Kelly Reichardt manages to keep making movies that apparently are hard pressed to break even, let alone make a profit. She must have a cabal of extremely understanding and generous producers she can call on. I had the misfortune of seeing her Meek's Cutoff a few years back. It would have the distinction of being one of the worst westerns I've ever seen. Certain Women, I have to admit, is better than that stinker and I feel I'm being really generous in awarding it a score of 5/10.
0 out of 1 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Dear Metacritic
eminkl17 April 2020
For foreign amateur reviewers on metacritic who complain that Hollywood never strays far from explosions and car chases, this is a reminder you can always find American art-school drama. It's a character study about women, obviously, three short stories that just barely and arbitrarily intersect. (Our favorite one about men is "Saint Jack" (1978) with Ben Gazzara in Singapore, which was shot in secret to avoid Singapore's nanny-state censors.) Some homegrown amateurs on metacritic complain that nothing "happened." Kids, write this down: there was a lot happening in emotional depth and light feminist themes in the backdrop of a vast, lonely, Montana vista that was a treat in itself. Not everything needs to follow a linear narrative with dramatic spikes or tropes. In any case, it's great to see Laura Dern in low gear after her manic performance in A-List TV ("Enlightened") as well as Jared Harris from "Mad Men."
2 out of 3 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Most of the reviews of this movie are plot summaries
xhidden9922 July 2018
Which is both telling and sad. Telling because there's nothing in the movie of any substance or meaning. And sad because there is no plot. All that's left for the reviewer is to retell the scenes. I felt I was being trolled by the writer director by being forced to watch nothing until I had some kind of reaction. Like Freudian therapy where the therapist says nothing in an effort to upset the patient into a 'breakthrough. In any case you will watch and watch and watch and ultimately feel the experiment is you. Alternatively the movie is so indie that everyone is supposed to think it's genius, a new art form even, so that no one will ever mention that the emperor has no clothes.

On a technical level there's no backing music, the sound of tinny and flat, if the lighting is natural then Montana gets less sun than Scotland. The camera work is good. At least there's no shaky cam. There's very little dialog but the interminable lengths of scenes isn't as irritating as you would think. They're just pointless.

The acting is sturdy enough though all the cheering that this is a master class in acting is off. Laura Dern really is one dimensional. Michelle Williams really is one dimensional. Kirsten Stewart is the personification of bored robotic stoner 'drama'.

All in all the movie is like an existentialist play where all the characters are dead and in hell but they don't know it, spending eternity in a dull dead entropic nothing where nothing happens
2 out of 7 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Certain impulse
coreyjdenford9 October 2016
This is my review of Certain Women (spoiler free)

**** (4/5)

WRITER/DIRECTOR KELLY Reichardt is one of the most remarkable directors in cinematic history at the moment, and has proved herself to be the master of slow-burning melancholic drama, with Old Joy, Wendy and Lucy and Meek's Cutoff, and Certain Women is no exception. She lately changed her theme with the fast-paced thriller starring Jesse Eisenberg in Night Moves a film that focuses on eco-movements and moved at a much faster pace than her other features. Certain Women is based on the short stories of the same name by Maile Maloy and adapted with Reichardt's powerful and intelligent scripting; it's a beautifully impacting story that focuses on three hard-working women in small town America and their real life situations of passion, managed by their human flaws. Few contemporary filmmakers can do quite as much with quiet as she does but sometimes don't quite nail the capacity of a decent script, were as she does both. Superficially there are empty soundscapes layered so intricately with the movements of nature and the broods of the weather and the preoccupied people that her films, seem to focus on which can seem positively noisy to a sympathetic ear. Unfortunately, it may not seem like it with the brilliant story and seemingly flawless characters, this has had reported walk outs at the Sundance Film Festival calling it the most boring and most brooding story ever.

However this beautiful story surpassed the walk outs and has had a lot of praise lately especially by Kristen Stewart's performance, once again proving that she is the actress to watch in 2016 especially after her brilliant performance in Woody Allen's Café Society earlier this year. The story is told in three episodes each one equally defined and filled with immense amounts of drama along the way as there isn't much that goes on in the short 107 minute run time certainly not as lengthy as other films like this but in each and every minute the drama takes a rather giant grip, and each time becoming increasingly more powerful. The first two episodes are only moderately impacting, but the third packs in an overwhelming amount of power, in moods, observation and longing. In each episode the development of characters is done progressively the more the story goes on as each is introduced, the first episode focuses on Laura (Laura Dern) a lawyer whom is very praised in her work place and her case is to focus on a man Fuller (Jarred Harris), who has no will of life and she has to try to make that better. The second a little less powerful episode focuses on Gina (Michelle Williams) a family woman who works for a living and tries to build a house for her family to live in, not much goes on in that episode.

However the third and overwhelmingly powerful episode focuses on a young law student named Beth (Kristen Stewart) who has to take a rather arduous journey to work and forms an inseparable bond with a lonely farm hand who enjoys talking to her. The plot is very simplistic but it's the harmoniously impacting drama that really forms the story. These three women are very intricate characters who also have very similar flaws one's coping with sexism in a law firm, the other is coping with sexism in family the only one that doesn't cope with any of that is Beth she just has to take a very long journey from home to work and then back again, but the characterization of each character is flawless and has a very assiduous touch. Overall Certain Women is a very quiet story that focuses on the aesthetics of passion, life, longing with a severe amount of patience and strong-willed people with flaws and human senses, it's a beautiful mix of themes in the characters and has a gorgeous mid-western setting surrounding the film, and it's as if this story came out of nowhere. And after Reichardt's previous venture into fast-paced thriller territory she has now reclaimed her reputation as the quietest filmmaker in the world and this is just another addition to her ever-expanding fulfilling career.

VERDICT: Kelly Reichardt creates yet another powerfully engaging, beautifully impacting slow-burning masterpiece engulfed by expertly intricate performances.

8/10 brilliantly engaging.
9 out of 25 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Newcomer Lily Gladstone steals the show from her A-list castmates in this indie trilogy
The_late_Buddy_Ryan29 December 2018
If you're okay with a movie that doesn't have a conventional "story arc" or a tidy resolution--and it seems like a lot of folks here are *not* okay with that--then I strongly recommend this one. For us, the combo of Kelly Reichardt's terse visual style and Maile Meloy's subtle, affecting stories of Montana life was irresistible.

The first two episodes flit by pretty quickly, like pages from an indie sketchbook, and don't have all that much impact, tbh: A small-town lawyer (Laura Dern) has to intercede when a difficult client (Jared Harris) tries to take the law into his own hands; a couple (Michelle Williams, a Reichardt standby, and James Le Gros) pay a call on a neighbor (Rene Auberjonois) who has a heap of sandstone on his property they covet for the house they're building.

In the third, and most substantial episode, a shy ranch girl (Lily Gladstone) wanders into an adult ed class "because I saw people goin' in" and imprints on the teacher (an unglamorous Kristen Stewart). A fragile, asymmetrical friendship develops: the teacher mainly wants somebody to complain to about her four-hour commute; the rancher, who has only a string of horses and a yappy corgi for company, is clearly hungry for human contact.

Lily Gladstone's amazingly expressive performance steals the show from her A-list castmates. Not much is said, and very little happens, but this final episode leaves you with a very strong feeling--almost more like a real-life experience than a movie--of the loneliness and isolation of this beautiful, empty country. Available on Netflix.
3 out of 5 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
A sober, minimal but intense portrait of women, expertly interpreted
yris200219 June 2017
It's years since I saw a sober movie on women like this. Used to a cinematography where the female inner world often needs to be too much explicitly exhibited, with women moving from anxious neurotic creatures to incomprehensible beings, here we have a very delicate presentation of four women living in the wide and remote plains of Montana. The vastness of the landscape, fascinating and disquieting at the same time, is the ideal setting for the presentation of a vast, both still and restless inner female world, expertly rendered by the interpreters. Each of them did a great job, especially Lily Gladstone who does not speak more than a hundred words, but lives her character with rare intensity. As a woman, this is a picture I deeply appreciated: at last a movie showing off no excesses and no exhibited emphasis. When less is definitely more.
6 out of 12 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
An error has occured. Please try again.

See also

Awards | FAQ | User Ratings | External Reviews | Metacritic Reviews

Recently Viewed