"Subtle Triplet of Stories on the Quiet Montana Landscape"
What You Need To Know:
CERTAIN WOMEN will befuddle viewers unacquainted with the work of writer/director Kelly Reichardt. Reichardt likes adapting her scripts from the work of authors. In true indie experimental fashion, she stitched together three separate stories into one long movie; and, it does feel long. Although there is little language, the obscenities are all “F” words. Some very brief partial nudity is depicted at the beginning, and there is some subject matter not suitable for children. Strong caution is recommended.
(H, B, PC, Ho, L, V, S, NN, D, MM) Godless worldview with no indication of belief in a supernatural being or the Bible; many scenes depict characters carrying out acts of kindness towards one another, a woman expresses patience and kindness towards a man who annoys her; a female lawyer mentions that her client would have listened to her if she’d been a man; total of three profanities and four obscenities, include multiple uses of “God” and the “F” word; man talks about getting a machine gun and killing people, a man takes a security guard hostage with a shotgun; implied fornication between an unmarried couple, a man talks about his wife having an affair, and married man has an affair with an unmarried woman; upper female nudity when woman wears see-through lingerie, rear male nudity in bathroom; no alcohol use; cigarette smoking; and, a woman lies to her client, a teenage daughter is disrespectful towards her parents, and a man’s wife leaves him and goes to live with another man.
CERTAIN WOMEN subtly intersects the stories of three women who live in rural Montana. Each lives in their own world and are completely unaware of the others. The movie is adapted from three short stories by Maile Meloy, “Tome,” “Native Sandstone” and “Travis B.” Each story is presented sequentially, one after the other, until the final few minutes of the movie, which revisits each woman and wraps up the loose ends.
The movie begins with Laura, a lawyer trying to rid herself of a client, who refuses to let go of his lost case. This is the most interesting story of all three because it contains some humor. It’s almost a comedy in some respects but ends in a hostage situation.
Laura’s client, Fuller, has been visiting her office for eight months after being told repeatedly by her that he can’t possibly sue the construction company with which he settled a workman’s comp claim. Refusing to take “no” for an answer, he comically follows Laura, much to her frustration. Fuller eventually breaks down over the unfairness of his life and takes a security guard hostage in an office building. Laura then must go in and convince him to give up.
The most ambiguous of the stories is Gina’s. She’s a wife and mother returning to camp from a run in the woods. She, along with her husband and teenage daughter, have set up camp on the site of their newly acquired property. There they plan to build a weekend house made of repurposed native materials. Their daughter, Guthrie, couldn’t care less about the whole thing, preferring to be back home. She gives her parents a hard time, especially when they stop to visit and old family friend, Albert, who lives nearby.
A 76-year-old man, Albert lives alone and recently fell. Though he’s fine, his sad existence eats away at Gina, but she seems torn about getting too involved in his life.
Albert owns a huge pile of native sandstone. So, Gina and her husband ask him to sell it to them for their house. Albert seems reluctant to let it go, as if it’s the only thing meaningful to him. Gina feels guilty for asking, but concludes it would go to waste otherwise. Albert tells them he’ll think about it, but it’s tentatively theirs. They exchange phone numbers so he can let them know.
Lastly, is the story of an unarmed horse rancher who works by herself with the animals. She never sees the ranch owners and has become lonely with just the horses and a dog for companionship. Driving through town one night, she notices a group of people entering the school. Desperate for human contact, she stops and follows them. Once inside the classroom, she discovers she’s stumbled into a class on educational law for teachers.
Teaching the class is a recent law school grad, Beth, who lives in a town four hours away. Each Tuesday and Thursday night, Beth makes the drive, fitting in the teaching gig between sleep and her day job. The rancher isn’t interested in the class, but is immediately taken with Beth. After the first class, they strike up a rapport and enjoy dinner together at the diner. Each post-class evening is spent the same way, and it becomes clear that Beth is increasingly more hesitant to return the rancher’s friendship.
One night, a replacement teacher shows up in Beth’s place, because Beth has finally decided the four-hour drive was too much. The rancher makes a trip to Beth’s town in an attempt to find her and let her know that she’s missed.
CERTAIN WOMEN is sure to befuddle viewers if they are not acquainted with the work of Writer/Director Kelly Reichardt. Reichardt’s specialty is soft, subtle filmmaking. She likes adapting her scripts from the work of authors, this time choosing Maile Meloy. In true indie experimental fashion, she stitched together three separate stories into one long movie; and, the movie does indeed feel long. Though it is Reichardt’s style, things move slowly, and scenes repeat themselves to sometimes show the mundane dreariness of a lonely life. Perhaps, it makes for good art, but it’s terrible for storytelling. Each story is left open-ended, with a small exception to Laura’s legal adventure where there’s an attempt at closure. So, anyone looking for a good, solid, traditional story will be disappointed.
Ultimately, CERTAIN WOMEN plays more as vignettes edited together without any warning that the movie’s transitioning to the next story. Thus, it takes a couple minutes to figure out that the characters have been replaced by a different set of characters, and things are starting over. However, there are moments of pure beauty in the movie as the Montana landscape is featured, and the quietness of horses grazing in a snow-covered field serves as an escape to nature.
The movie opens with Laura shacking up with a married man, who is later revealed to be Gina’s husband. Neither woman is aware of the other. However, in that scene, both are shown partially nude very briefly. Laura’s relationship with her client, Fuller, is difficult as she struggles with helping the man responsible for annoying her the last eight months. She can never seem to turn him away, and despite her questionable morals at the beginning, she practices kindness and patience with Fuller. Gina’s family comes across as somewhat dysfunctional. Not only is her husband having an affair unbeknownst to her, but she has a strained relationship with her teenage daughter. Neither show much respect to the other, however, they appear to get along better at the very end of the movie. There isn’t much language. Three profanities consisting of “God,” and four profanities, all the “F” word. Some content, such as the affair, hostage situation, and divorce also recommend strong caution.