(director/writer: Kelly Reichardt; screenwriter: based on stories by Maile Meloy; cinematographer: Christopher Blauvelt; editor: Kelly Reichardt; music: Jeff Grace; cast: Laura Dern (Laura), James Le Gros (Ryan), Jared Harris (Fuller), John Getz (Sheriff Rowles), Michelle Williams (Gina), Sara Rodier (Guthrie), Rene Auberjonois (Albert), Lily Gladstone (The Rancher), Kristen Stewart (Elizabeth Travis); Runtime: 107; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Neil Kopp, Vincent Savino, Anish Savjani; Filmscience; 2016-France-in English)
“The minimalist storyteller leaves much unsaid in her rich film, but says enough to get us thinking about the characters long after the film.“
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Kelly Reichardt(“Meek’s Cutoff”/”River of Grass”) is a talented feminist filmmaker from Portland, Oregon, who directs and writes the screenplay based on the short stories by Maile Meloy. It portrays various women, in the three stories presented, trying to make a go of it in secluded Livingston, Montana. The minimalist storyteller leaves much unsaid in her rich film, but says enough to get us thinking about the characters long after the film. The third story is by far the most compelling and touching.
Lawyer Laura Wells (Laura Dern) has her angry male client, a disabled construction worker (Jared Harris), refuse to believe that since he already accepted a workplace injury settlement, he cannot be compensated again. She believes if a male lawyer told him that he would believe it without a fuss.
Alienated enigmatic businesswoman Gina Lewis (Michelle Williams) is married with a teen daughter Guthrie (Sara Rodier) and a bearded husband Ryan (James Le Gros) who has been sleeping with Laura but has ended the affair. Gina believes she can bring her family together again by building her dream home, as the family camps outdoors at the building site while construction their life again.
The third main character, in the third story, is never called by name. It’s the shy Native American ranch hand (Lily Gladstone), working at a horse farm, who is driven by boredom and loneliness to the nearby town, where she develops an interest in a recent female law school graduate, Elizabeth Travis (Kristen Stewart). Elizabeth commutes to teach a night class in educational law twice a week at the rural school in town. When she dines at the local diner after class, the rancher chats with her and on an impulse sits in on her law class, and enters into an awkward relationship with her.
The plot hardly matters, what does is the inner turmoil the women are facing and how each is coping with their problems.
Though it’s a slow-moving film, the performances are spot on and the mood set is hypnotic. It might be a small film without much ambition, but touches home with its pointed views on topical societal problems delivered in a caring way, telling of frustrated ordinary folks trying to find meaning in their life in a remote place.
REVIEWED ON 6/14/2018 GRADE: B