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Review: ‘Certain Women’s’ quiet moments make noise

Adam Graham
The Detroit News

“Certain Women” is a thing of quiet beauty.

Director Kelly Reichardt (“Meek’s Cutoff,” “Wendy and Lucy”) isn’t one to make a lot of noise or draw attention to herself or her characters. She knows the most meaningful moments are left unsaid.

The movie unfolds in three loosely connected chapters, all set in Livingston, Montana. In the first, a lawyer (Laura Dern) represents a client (Jared Harris) who is clinging to a hopeless worker’s compensation case and who winds up in a police standoff. It’s the busiest of the three stories, but in Reichardt’s hands, it still barely registers above a whisper.

In the second tale, a couple (Michelle Williams and James LeGros) seeks to obtain a pile of sandstone from an elderly family friend (Rene Auberjonois) for a house they plan to build. There’s tension in the seemingly friendly negotiation, which Reichardt later drives home in a single heartbreaking stare from Auberjonois.

In the devastating final act, Kristen Stewart stars as a young lawyer who takes a job teaching a night class for adults. A local rancher (superb newcomer Lily Gladstone is a revelation) wanders into the class, sits in back and forms a connection with Stewart’s character.

Rather than spell it out, Gladstone wears it all on her person, in her walk and in her clothes; there’s a lifetime in her performance. Their thread culminates with a long, silent reaction shot that recalls George Clooney’s taxi cab ride into the abyss at the end of “Michael Clayton.”

That moment sums up “Certain Women.” It’s a tiptoe of a movie, but it’s as elegant and graceful as the vast Montana landscape.

agraham@detroitnews.com

(313) 222-2284

@grahamorama

‘Certain Women’

GRADE: A-

Rated R for some language

Running time: 107 minutes