For Reel


Certain Women (2016)
November 27, 2016, 12:11 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Kelly Reichardt
4.5 Stars
certain-womenKelly Reichardt has established herself as a poet of silences: both in the literal sense, in which characters fail to summon the right words and so they say nothing at all, and in the way she imagines the sparse, open spaces that permeate her film world. Certain Women is her most direct address in expanding upon the motif in that it tells an anthology of stories in which communication is sloppy and difficult, either resulting in dramatic outbursts (Jared Harris’ pathetic and threatening client) or clumsy gestures (Michelle Williams’ wife attempting to literally rebuild the foundation of a functional family unit). If these first two stories can be met with a distance in that their dramas seem founded on self-delusions, the third of Reichardt’s stories regards a more hopeful struggle against longing. That is, whereas the other two involve the decay of professional and personal relationships, the last story carries with it the naive optimism of the birth of feeling. The way an ambiguous friendship between Kristen Stewart and Lily Gladstone develops is rendered sweetly by the latter’s silent dedication. And, even if audiences might predict that a last-ditch romantic gesture is ultimately misguided, Gladstone’s rancher is victorious in that she is ultimately the truest to her passions. If Reichardt isn’t attempting a crowd-pleaser in the end (one could imagine that she loves the three women of the film equally), she provides a counterpoint to the pained longing of the previous two vignettes by suggesting that longing can be a vessel for self-growth.



Meek’s Cutoff (2010)
June 13, 2011, 6:25 am
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Kelly Reichardt

The titular Mr. Meek is an arrogant, stubborn patriarch who, despite the reassurance he gives to those whom he guides, has clearly led his caravan to their almost sure death. A film of this nature, with its spare landscape and life-or-death stakes in nearly every frame, can often be suffocating – but, unlike Peter Weir’s The Way Back, for instance, Reichardt masterfully crafts a handful of characters and allows tension to rise through minimal dialogue. Though westerns of this sort are typically shot in widescreen, Reichardt boldly presents the film in the Academy ratio – rather than extending the frame to illuminate the space around the characters, she restricts their mobility even further. The film has been called a feminist western and, indeed, Michelle Williams is not only the brightest character of the bunch, but also the most compassionate. Moreover, Meek’s masculinity is often challenged while the group questions his legitimacy as a guide. In several scenes early on, the men huddle together to discuss their next move while the camera, reflecting the point-of-view of the women, is set at a distance without picking up the audio of the male plotting. Reichardt clearly intends to give the audience the subjective perspective of the female characters and, for that reason, we are constantly aware that they can offer greater intellectual contributions to the caravan than they have been given the opportunity to.