Sunday, 12 March 2017

certain women [w&d kelly reichardt]

Reichardt’s movie has that neat trick of putting high wattage stars in low wattage roles. Dern, Stewart and Williams play underwhelming, small-town figures in three very loosely connected vignettes. Their stories are whimsical and ephemeral. There’s no great drama, indeed in the Williams strand there’s barely any drama at all. The film is more concerned with the process of observation. A precise study of a few women in a particular moment of their lives. Of the three stories the film consists of, the third is by far the most compelling. This the Stewart strand. Perhaps this benefits from the fact that Stewart herself isn’t the predominant character. Rather it’s Lily Gladstone, playing a ranchhand who looks after horses and develops a crush on Stewart’s lawyer. In contrast to the other two stories, this one has a sense of development and pathos. Reichardt’s pacing is deliberately slow, and this rhythm comes into its own in the shots of Gladstone going about her work as she looks after the horses. We understand the tedium and loneliness of her life and engage completely with her sudden passion for Stewart. It’s a lovely performance and the advantages of letting the camera linger, and letting the narrative breathe, helping to accentuate the performance, come through. It feels as though, in the other two strands, Reichardt is reaching for this level of transcendence, without quite achieving it. Certain Women is only a frustrating film in so far as it hints at the possibility of something more profound than the film it eventually became.

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