Intersecting storylines are often hard to get right. Often times, characters never get the proper development and because there are several instances where the stories are separate before intertwining, the film feels disjointed a lot of the time. All of these are issues that “Certain Women” suffers from. There are four stories being told, all based on Maile Meloy’s short stories, but none of them intersect and all of them have potential, but fall very short of being anywhere near compelling.
The film revolves around the story of four women, all living in parts of Montana. There’s Laura Wells (Laura Dern), a lawyer who becomes involved in a hostage situation when her client (Jared Harris) doesn’t get what he wants out of a worker’s compensation claim; Gina Lewis (Michelle Williams), a wife and mother whose marital issues begin really coming to the forefront after an attempt to negotiate the purchase of a stone for the home she and her husband are building doesn’t go exactly as planned; and Jamie (Lily Gladstone), a rancher who takes a liking to Beth (Kristen Stewart), a teacher who has to drive four hours to her job teaching school law to adults.
Director and writer Kelly Reichardt certainly brings in various perspectives as we enter the lives of the four women, all of whom are at different stages in their lives. However, I found none of their stories to be particularly compelling. We get to spend so little time with each of them that none of their stories feel complete or whole. It doesn’t help that the film seems to drag on forever without any forward movement for any of the characters. It’s like they’re stuck in one moment and we’re peering in on their lives, but there’s nothing exceptionally moving or stirring about them to spark curiosity.
Although the film boasts an all-star cast, it’s Lily Gladstone who really stands out among the four women. Hers is the only character worth feeling any shred of sympathy for. Quickly, she becomes attached to Kristen Stewart’s Beth. In the short time they’ve known each other, the pair, after Beth’s class is over, go to the local diner and develop a rapport. It’s a rapport that Gladstone’s Jamie clings to, searching for more than friendship with Beth only to realize that perhaps she misread things. Gladstone wears her heart on her sleeve and her emotions on her face. In her body language we see everything she’s feeling and its heartbreaking.
Besides Gladstone’s performance, “Certain Women” doesn’t have anything going for it that would make it memorable. It’s almost two hours long and during that time nothing seems to happen. It’s agonizingly slow, dull, and disjointed as it moves from one character to another. There isn’t really any connection between the characters that holds the film together as one and with the shortness with which each character’s story is told, there never develops a compassion for any of the first three until we get to Gladstone’s Jamie. What drives these women? What is important to them? “Certain Women” doesn’t really set out to answer these questions. It makes an effort to be compelling, but never gets to a place for it to be so.
What drives these women? What is important to them? "Certain Women" doesn't really set out to answer these questions. It makes an effort to be compelling, but never gets to a place for it to be so.