‘certain women’ is a fragile drama about finding yourself

Laura (Laura Dern) works as a lawyer, and has been trying to convince her client that this case can’t be won. But after 8 months of hard work, she gives up and suggests a male lawyer who tells the client exactly the same thing. This time the client agrees, proving that sexism is still present.

Gina (Michelle Williams) is barely handling her marriage. She can’t make a connection with her daughter, and the only escape she gets is a morning run and a few drags of the occasional cigarette. Despite this, she keeps denying the existence of all of her problems.

Jamie (Lily Gladstone) is a shy young woman who works at a ranch, feeding horses. One day, she attends a class where she meets Elizabeth (Kristen Stewart) – a tired law student who is desperate to get any law job, who now travels four hours each way to teach a group of middle-aged people about law. Beth uses Jamie as a free ear to brag about her life, but for Jamie, Beth soon becomes something more than just an acquaintance.

Certain Women by Kelly Reichardt consists of three simple songs about three different women who ask themselves questions that we have all asked ourselves at least once. How do we make people see our personality, rather than the label that society gave you? How can we be honest with ourselves, and teach ourselves that sometimes what we want is not what we need? Why is loving someone not the same as being indebted to someone? And why can we give up on our dreams so easily?

Reichardt, instead of being forefront and making a statement film about sexism, unequipped love and broken dreams, has made a slow and quiet story about finding yourself. She doesn’t use big explanations to make those statements. Instead, she uses lengthy scenes and beautiful but lonely visions of the American Northwest. She doesn’t use a slew of many words to transfer the fragility, the fear, the desperation, the love, that are much more powerful in silence; instead, she uses small gestures, half smiles and gazing eyes. ‘Certain Women’ is not an annoying noise in your ear trying to tell you what is right and what is not, it’s a poem; a poem which flows, and at the end of the day you realize that this film is universal, and we all have at one time been a Laura, Gina, Jamie, or Beth, and we are ourselves are those certain women the film is about.

Certain Women is not the dictating noise in your ear trying to tell you what is right and what is not, it’s a poem; a poem that flows. At the end of it, you realise that this film’s themes are universal, and we all have, at one time, been a Laura, Gina, Jamie, or Beth. We are those certain women that this film is about.


Certain Women is released in the UK on March 3rd

This review is part of our coverage of the BFI London Film Festival 2016