Meticulous but un­sat­is­fy­ing

The Jewish Chronicle - - LIFE - RE­VIEW STEVEN APPLEBAUM Cer­tain Women

(12A)

THE IN­DE­PEN­DENT Amer­i­can film­maker Kelly Re­ichardt has made si­lence one of her most elo­quent tools. In her spare, nat­u­ral­is­tic films, such as the fem­i­nist Western Meek’s Cut­off and Wendy and Lucy, it is in the quiet mo­ments that her char­ac­ters of­ten seem most ex­pres­sive. When words are scarce, mi­cro ges­tures, fa­cial ex­pres­sions, telling looks and glances, be­come the cur­rency for re­veal­ing their in­ner work­ings, to us and to each other.

And so it is with Re­ichardt’s lat­est film, Cer­tain Women. With a cast fea­tur­ing Kris­ten Ste­wart, Laura Dern and Michelle Wil­liams, it is her most starry film to date. Even so, its three vaguely con­nected tales of every­day women, drawn from the sto­ries Tome, Na­tive Sand­stone and Travis B, by Mon­tan­abased au­thor Maile Meloy, are mod­est in scale and, un­til the fi­nal part of this keenly-ob­served trip­tych, mod­est in af­fect.

In the first, a lawyer (Dern) deals with a lonely and time-con­sum­ing client (Jared Har­ris), who seems to be on the verge of a vi­o­lent melt­down as the re­sult of a life-crush­ing work­place ac­ci­dent. She is hav­ing an af­fair (although it is only in­ci­den­tal to the main drama) with a man who turns out to be the hus­band of Wil­liams’s char­ac­ter in the sec­ond story about a couple who want an old friend to sell them a pile of his­toric sand­stone blocks for the week­end home they are build­ing.

While su­perbly acted, es­pe­cially by Dern and Har­ris, and rich in observational de­tail, these sto­ries aren’t en­tirely sat­is­fy­ing, feel­ing more like sketches than fully re­alised pieces. This sense is height­ened by the third and most af­fect­ing sec­tion, about a lonely ranch hand, Jamie (win­ningly played by new­comer Lily Glad­stone), who strikes up an ac­quain­tance with Kris­ten Ste­wart’s young out-of-town lawyer dur­ing her vis­its to teach a night class. Jamie’s long­ing for con­nec­tion, and un­ex­pressed pas­sion, are touch­ing and painful, and lend the story a weight and emo­tional in­ten­sity that the other parts lack. Ul­ti­mately the sub­tlety of Cer­tain Women, while ad­mirable, proves dou­bleedged. The film is ma­ture, insightful and metic­u­lously crafted, but only at the end does it feel like flesh has been put on the bone.

Cer­tain Women is re­leased March 3

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