Certain Women

Certain Women is an unambitious movie, driven by a simplistic desire and therefore quite fulfilling.

There is a serenity to Certain Women that is pleasing to watch. This is an unambitious movie, driven by a simplistic desire and therefore quite fulfilling. Even though it stars recognizable Hollywood stars, the film focuses on ordinary lives of ordinary people and does a wonderful job of fitting into that Goldilocks zone where it is neither pretentious/exploitative, nor experimental/amateur.

Set in rural America, the movie observes the regular lives of three regular women. Laura Dern plays a lawyer with a client unhappy about his work-injury settlement. Michelle Williams is an emotionally distant wife and mother, looking to buy unused sandstone from an elderly gentleman. Lily Gladstone (in a beautiful internalised performance) is a lonely ranch girl, tending to horses on a farm. She befriends a young lawyer, played by Kirsten Stewart, who visits the town two evenings each week to teach classes on School Law.

As three distinct stories that barely intersect, the film follows a not-often seen pattern of telling the first two-acts of each story before getting onto the third act of each one. Thus, it avoids the chapter-based or anthology-style narrative or the tired concept of intertwining multiple character threads. Certain Women has homogeneous stories shown with a compassion that makes it engaging; you want to sit back, relax and watch.

Director Kelly Reichardt proves her talent at making a simple movie of unsophisticated goals. Without infusing her movie with deliberate drama or compensating the lack of it with music or editing, Reichardt allows the focus of the movie to be about the normal and the ordinary. The bane of such cinema is that it also means the movie will eventually be unmemorable. As authentic as the performances are, their need to not be outstanding means they will mostly go unnoticed among the great acts of the year.

With the many good, bad and mediocre movies released each year, and especially for attendees of film festivals, movies like Certain Women are an important if not essential experience – much like a sorbet between courses of a meal, it cleans the palette. As a perfectly well-made movie of competent performances, you will be hard-pressed to find fault with it. But it will also make you hungry for better and more meaningful movies.

Rating: ★★★½☆

About Shariq Madani

Shariq is a social, talkative, fun-loving guy who enjoys books, food and a long drive. But his real joy is in the comfortable darkness of a cinema, watching a good movie, and later spending hours discussing it.