Laura (Laura Dern) is a lawyer in smalltown America. She has a client who got a raw deal from his work after an injury. But since he took their initial offer of compensation, there’s not much she can do. Of course, for months he’s refused to believe her, and only hearing the same words from a man seems to do the trick. That is, until she gets a call in the middle of the night that he’s taken someone hostage and thanks to an ineffectual crime response in Montana, it falls to her to defuse the situation.
Gina (Michelle Williams) and her husband are trying to build their dream home. A conversation with an elderly gentleman who may or may not have some soapstone to sell exposes some cracks in the foundation of her marriage. Are they even on the same page?
Fresh out of law school, Elizabeth couldn’t bed certain she’d land a good job so she started taking anything she could get. That’s why, despite landing a position with a law firm, she’s also driving 4 hours each way twice a week to teach an adult education class where the students don’t seem to quite appreciate what they’re doing there. Her only real connection is with an unenrolled student, a ranch hand (Lily Gladstone) who’s just wandered in off the street, curious. Curious about people, not the subject. The rancher and the teacher will converse over greasy spoon fries after class.
These three stories only intersect in the vaguest, merest of ways. Certain Women is more about the female experience in this tiny town, and what it’s like to be breaking new ground, literally and figuratively. Director Kelly Reichardt gives us these stories like she’d give a gift. She has uncommon skill at finding compassion and nuance in the smallest of everyday stories. We feel like we know her characters. There aren’t a lot of big, bold happenings, but the attempts at connection, and in fact, the missed opportunities left me bereft. Certain Women tugs so subtly at your heart. It’s full of tiny moments that you can hoard and love in whatever capacity you feel best.