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Director Kelly Reichardt’s latest movie, Certain Women, had its Sundance premiere Sunday night, and while two of its leading actresses — Laura Dern and Michelle Williams — were unable to attend the festival, the third, Kristen Stewart, took the stage along with Reichardt and several members of the cast to speak about the film after its screening.
Based on short stories by Maile Meloy, Certain Women follows three women’s stories in a small town in Montana. Stewart plays a new lawyer who has gotten stuck teaching a night class that requires her to drive four hours each direction. There, she meets a young rancher (Lily Gladstone), who is also looking for meaning in her life.
“I’m a Reichardt fan,” said Stewart. “I think particularly for our story, Kelly is somehow fixated on things that most people miss. She’s really good at highlighting the unspoken and the invisible.”
The latest film by Reichardt, who previously helmed Night Moves and Wendy and Lucy (also starring Williams), showcases the landscape of the Montana town, along with the small, sometimes mundane movements of its main characters.
Stewart said the interactions — and mostly lack of real interaction — between her character and Gladstone’s was of special interest to her. “There’s little conversations that are completely separate — you think you’re having an exchange with someone … but sometimes you’re just so alone,” she said. “I thought it was so perfect and sad, sad, sad.”
Reichardt said she first stumbled upon Meloy’s short stories in a Portland bookstore.
“I knew right away that I wanted to make a film of her stories,” she said. “They were right up my alley — landscapes, people in landscapes, a lot of chores — all my favorite things.”
The filmmaker spent a year trying out different stories to see which would work well together. Then, once the script was done, Reichardt said the focus became on the script and shooting in Montana. “Once I got my feet on the ground, I didn’t look back to the stories,” she said.
“Her movies are super thoughtful in their approach, and slow and steady,” added Stewart, who drove from Los Angeles to Montana for the shoot, of Reichardt’s pacing. “The fact that she has the patience and the interest in things that people don’t normally look at is what paces her movies. It’s the comfortability of watching nothing — because there’s always something in there.”
She added: “She’s really letting people live — it’s rare.”
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