The emptiness is put across tremendously, but that doesn’t make it anymore interesting.
Understated, arthouse films have been around for a long time. Yet, as each year goes by they gain a greater following, both within critical circles and with viewers. Coinciding with huge vinyl sales and vintage fashion, the idea of being different or unique is as strong as it ever has been. With a very small budget, especially when compared to the majority of film releases in today’s market, Certain Women is a shining example of where independent cinema is headed, but the question is whether it’s headed in the right direction?
Certain Women is the telling of three individual stories, each minutely connected to the next. Laura Wells (Laura Dern) is a lawyer whose long standing client will not take no as an answer, leading her to a difficult situation. Gina (Michelle Williams) is a woman looking to build her dream house in the country but struggles with a rough home life. And finally, Jamie (Lily Gladstone) sees others attending a class run by Beth (Kristen Stewart) and chooses to enter on a mere whim.
There is a lot to say about Certain Women even though very little happens during its runtime. It just has enough for it to not appear boring, but there’s nothing exciting or remarkable about the film. It’s incredibly stubborn in the self absorption it surrounds itself in.
There are some good performances, particularly that of Michelle Williams, but at no point are the emotions these women are experiencing delved into. Certain Women chooses to over use long standing shots as opposed to dialogue to get across its message.
This form of slow pacing can be understandable, but when literally nothing happens, it becomes irritating. These aren’t particularly ordinary lives, they’re empty lives. The emptiness is put across tremendously, but that doesn’t make it anymore interesting. It’s actually very similar in tone and style to the Coen Brother’s ‘Inside Llewyn Davis,’ but that film showed how Llewyn found his muse through music. Certain Women has no such respite.
This is due to poor production on the direction the film was taking. There is potential for a much more enriching and valuable film but instead it’s an overly subtle entity with a relatively short runtime, with a good percentage of that empty. A huge part of the third act is silence in a car. There’s a difference between putting across the length of a journey and majorly dragging something out.
Certain Women is a film for critics. It’s there to appease the subtle facial movements and quiet nature critics often thrive upon. Yet, when it is actually looked at for its enjoyment value, it’s just as blank as it’s script.