Certain Women

An impressive, quiet, Montana-set film that is to some extent about three faltering relationships: one between a lawyer (Laura Dern) and her client (Jared Harris); one between a woman (Michelle Williams) and her family (James LeGros, Sara Rodier) as they set about building a dream home; and one between a young law teacher in a community college (Kristen Stewart) and a ranch hand student (Lily Gladstone). All of the above turn in excellent performances, but the revelation is Gladstone, in only her fourth appearance; it should be a breakthrough. There’s a scene here in which we watch her as she drives for about two minutes; it may not sound like much, but it’s magnificent, and it ends with one of the saddest, most heartbreaking cinematic images I’ve seen for quite some time as her character’s truck slowly rolls off the road, the metaphor obvious enough while you’re watching and the impact undeniable. There’s a mournfulness that seeps in throughout this movie, perhaps reflected by the snowy, barren Montana landscape, which seems to these foreign eyes to be a sad place (I’m projecting, I know). Yet there’s also strength – certainty – in some of the characters, and the way that they make decisions, which gives the film traces of hope and leaves you feeling somewhat inspired about the world, and people. It’s my first taste of Kelly Reichardt and I’m keen to see her other films now; I wish this one was longer… at 90-odd minures it felt like just enough, and I am greedy. (****½)