Set in the barren landscapes across Montana, Kelly Reichardt's Certain Women details the lives of a few women living across the state, having no knowledge of each other, but having a shared experience due to the environment which they inhabit. Told in three segments, Certain Women is a tale of intersecting lives, though they never physically meet, yet emotionally share very similar experiences. There is one scene where the two characters share the same space in the office of Laura Wells, a lawyer, and the central protagonist of the first story, but these characters never interact physically, with two characters of the film having a connection in an other way but I wont detail that yet. Laura Wells, a small town lawyer, is dealing with a lot of stress, struggling to control her disgruntled client, a man who is suffering mentally, physically, and emotionally, feeling slighted by a worker's compensation settlement Laura Dern's performance as Wells is subtlety riveting, exhibiting a woman who is beyond frustrated with life, feeling underappreciated as a person,at least in part due to her gender. The second story introduces Gina Lews, a married woman who seems constantly in motion. Michele Williams exhibits a strong woman in Gina, the head of the household who is quietly frazzled due to doubts about her husband, having way too much on her mind, including her teenager daughter, and getting the sandstone for her husband to use in the construction of their new home. Like Laura, she deals with subtle disrespect due to her gender, with her opinions being subtlety ignored in one scene, from and older man who they are asking to purchase sandstone from, who always directs his attention to Laura's husband, regardless of who asks the questions. There is a sense of resentment in this man, who while not vocal or hostile in any way shows disrespect for Laura for no discernible reason outside of misogyny. The other connection between the women of these stories, which I alluded to earlier, is that it turns out that the man Laura is sleeping with in the first segment is the husband of Gina in the second segment. Certain Women presents this fact to the audience but never blatantly states whether or not Gina knows of her husband's actions, but it is very clear that he does have a sense of guilt on how he is betraying a woman who does so much. The last segment of the film focuses on Jamie, a young ranch-hand, clearly looking for some form of feminine connection, having lived her life in a very traditionally masculine setting. She takes an interest in a young teacher, Beth Travis, a woman who herself is out of her element, a law student teaching classes in education law in a small, distant town from her school With an awkward demeanor in social interactions, Jaime is a character who struggles to express herself, a woman uncomfortable in her own skin who desperately wants to communicate her affection to Beth towards the end. Like all of Reichardt's work, Certain Woman is a film bristling with genuine emotion, with nothing ever feeling sentimental for the sake of it, presenting a quietly haunting portrait of small-town America. All three stories are females in male driven cultures, with the quiet desolate setting of Montana serving as the perfect atmosphere, the barren landscapes symbolizing the internal struggle of these characters, each who is missing something in their lives. Nuanced, extremely well-acted, and directed, Kelly Reichardt's Certain Woman is another quietly devastating film from one of the best contemporary American filmmakers working today.
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