Certain Women review: a sorrowful tour de force from director Kelly Reichardt

Kristen Stewart, Michelle Williams and Laura Dern lead a formidable ensemble in a quiet, precise triptych of tales about longing

Certain Women
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Director: Kelly Reichardt
Cert: 12A
Genre: Drama
Starring: Laura Dern, Kristen Stewart, Michelle Williams, James Le Gros, Jared Harris, Lily Gladstone, René Auberjonoi s
Running Time: 1 hr 48 mins

Lawyer Laura (Laura Dern) attempts to help her increasingly exasperated, bothersome client named Fuller (Jared Harris), a man who has been left out of work, disabled and with little compensation after a workplace injury. While giving him a lift, he rants and raves before breaking down into gasping sobs.

Gina and Ryan Lewis (Michelle Williams and James Le Gros) are a bickering married couple with a teenage daughter and a plot which they are building a house on. The family visit Albert (René Auberjonois), an elderly neighbour to persuade him to sell the valuable sandstone bricks on his property.

The old man persistently ignores Gina and shuts her out of the conversation. Is it old-school misogyny, a touch of Alzheimer’s, or does Albert realise he is being used, and possibly swindled?

And lonely ranch hand Jamie (Lily Gladstone) falls quietly but passionately in love with Beth (Kristen Stewart), a young lawyer teaching night-school.


Working from Maile Meloy's short-story collection Both Ways Is the Only Way I Want It, director Kelly Reichardt does little to plait these vaguely intersecting narrative strands. The mood, however, is enough to unify the project, and to harken back to the same filmmaker's early melancholic gems Old Joy and Wendy and Lucy.

Slow pacing amplifies the longing experienced by many of the characters. Small, silent details – René Auberjonois not returning a wave from his window, Lily Gladstone’s lonely drive from the city – prove absolutely devastating.

In a movie characterised by delicate, precise movements from a formidable ensemble, it is soulful Gladstone – whose ancestors include both William Gladstone and treaty chief Red Crow – who leaves the most indelible impression.

Montana has seldom looked more ghostly and sparse than it does in Christopher Blauvelt’s wintry tableaux. A very fine picture, indeed.

Tara Brady

Tara Brady

Tara Brady, a contributor to The Irish Times, is a writer and film critic