We bring you a film that has not had the publicity it deserves. The film won Best Feature Film prize at the London Film Festival in October 2016 but was not released in the UK until March 2017, after the major awards season was over. It is a film in three parts, set in small town Montana. Each story features a woman or, in one case, two women and can best be described as a study of character. There is little that links the stories and there are no cataclysmic events but they come together to make something that is utterly absorbing and very different from what we usually see on the cinema screen.
The first opens with what seems like the end of an adulterous tryst between lawyer Laura Wells (Laura Dern) and a gruff, handsome man named Ryan (James LeGros). Once at work, she has a visit from her client, Fuller (Jared Harris), who’s seeking compensation for an office accident. Refusing to take Laura’s advice that he has no case, she takes Fuller to a male lawyer who offers the same counsel. Unable to accept defeat, Fuller takes matter into his own hands, bringing Laura along for the ride.
Ryan is revealed to be married to Gina (Michelle Williams), in the second and chilliest chapter. The pair, along with their bored teenage daughter Guthrie (Sara Rodier), are camping near a plot of land on which the couple intent to build a house. On their way back to the city, the family make a stop to visit Albert (Rene Auberjonois), an old family friend, in an effort to persuade him to sell some vintage sandstone for use on their new venture.
The third section is the most nakedly emotional of the trio, centring on a Native American horse rancher (the wonderfully expressive Lily Gladstone), who seems to have no human interaction in her life while caring for her horses on a remote ranch. That changes when she happens upon a class on education law in the nearest town, and takes an immediate liking to its instructor, Elizabeth (Kristen Stewart), an overworked law-school graduate who commutes a long distance for the job. The pair have a number of post-class diner meals and the unnamed ranch hand comes to believe their connection is a romantic one.
Certain Women is Kelly Reichardt’s fifth film to be set against the pregnant skies and cornbread-colored grasslands of America’s Northwest — painted with misty iridescence on 16mm by Reichardt’s reliably brilliant cinematographer Christopher Blauvelt — and there’s a not-wholly-rueful sense here of indigenous tradition and etiquette passing into history. All the women here, however put-upon, are independent in ways that defy their staid surroundings.
Click below for reviews and more information.
Venue: William Loveless Hall