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Certain Women

Kelly Reichardt’s films show great affection for her unsure heroes and heroines who are muddling through somehow. This time four women from Livingston, Montana are the center of three very loosely connected episodes that depict the undersides of ...


Kelly Reichardt’s films always radiate with great tenderness for the unsure, muddling heroes and heroines. Though characters rarely find love, Reichardt’s camera loves them and the places they live in. The “certain women” in Reichardt’s new film CERTAIN WOMEN live in Livingston, Montana, a small town on the “Lewis and Clark” trail that was also a film location in Robert Redford’s A RIVER RUNS THROUGH IT and THE HORSE WHISPERER. In the first shot of the film an endless freight train rides over the high plain of the overcast peaks of the Rocky Mountains. Livingston used to be a trading post where the workers of the Northern Pacific Railroad stayed. The high mountains begin behind the town. A romantic area, but also a place meant more for passing through than living in. Those who live there now are struggling. The predominantly white state of Montana has the highest poverty rate in the US. CERTAIN WOMEN is also about that.

There are four women at the center of three loosely connected episodes. Laconic lawyer Laura (Laura Dern) tries to ensure a moody client who is being screwed over by his insurance from going postal. Successful businesswoman Gina (Michelle Williams), who is in a failing marriage, wants to only use “authentic” materials for her summer house by the Yellowstone River, especially the sandstone in old Albert’s property,. Albert wanted to use the sandstone for a house he never finished building. Then there’s the highly stressed out young lawyer Elizabeth (Kristen Stewart), who is just starting out and has to drive four hours to Kaff Belfry to teach law at a night school. Lonely rancher (Lily Gladstone) stumbles upon her course and falls for her immediately.

If Reichardt’s early films like OLD JOY, WENDY AND LUCY, and NIGHT MOVES were accounts from the counter culture, the “others,” the real America, caught between outbursts, frustration, exhaustion, and hope, CERTAIN WOMEN is about what is underneath the pioneer ideal. With exception of the rancher, who is played by Lily Gladstone who is of Blackfeet and Nez Percé heritage, the other women are average, white, heterosexual frontier Americans belonging to different generations. Laura Dern’s pragmatic, sensitive lawyer is a woman who has seen it all. She can’t help her client with legal matters anymore, she’s having an affair that’s going nowhere, and she still continues to go on, bravely and empathetically. Gina is trying to build a house in a traditional way. Michelle William’s reserved turn shows her determination in latching on to a dream as well as her acknowledgment of her current and upcoming loneliness. The dream will bring comfort, perhaps. The only moments of happiness are in the last episode. There’s the glorious morning light when the rancher takes her horses out of the barn. The animal sweat, the condensed breath, everything speaks of a loneliness that can also make you happy. Yet the lawyer’s frustration, played with energetic grumpiness by Kristen Stewart, means the world to the rancher. There is a wonderful, intimate moment where both their worlds come into contact.


Translation: Elinor Lewy


USA 2016, 107 min
Genre: Drama
Director: Kelly Reichardt
Author: Kelly Reichardt
DOP: Christopher Blauvelt
Music: Jeff Grace
Distributor: Peripher Filmverleih
Cast: Michelle Williams, Jared Harris, Laura Dern, Kristen Stewart, Lily Gladstone, James Le Gros
Release: 02.03.2017




  • OV Original version
  • OmU Original with German subtitles
  • OmeU Original with English subtitles
English/with English subtitles
All languages

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