A lovely film, beautifully told, this triptych of stories directed by Kelly Reichardt (Meek’s Cutoff) immerses us in the lives of three women, played by Laura Dern, Michelle Williams and a luminous Lily Gladstone (above). Each of the three stories has a small interconnection with the others but stands alone as a meditation on loneliness and the sad reality of our inability sometimes to help others.
We start with Dern’s story, she is a small town lawyer with a client who has been injured at work but took an early payout which now precludes him from getting the money he needs to cope with his injury. She is exasperated at his truculence and his refusal to give up. The next story centres around Williams as a decisive woman, Gina, trying to build a holiday house in the country out of pioneer sandstone so it will be ‘authentic’. We see the dynamics of her family and the way she interacts with the lonely farmer on whose land the sandstone lies.
Lastly, Kristen Stewart plays a novice lawyer, Beth, who took a job teaching ‘school law’ at a community centre twice a week but regrets it as it requires an eight-hour drive. Gladstone plays a young women, Jamie, who runs a horse ranch. She walks into the class just because a ‘whole lot of other people’ were walking in but returns each time just for Beth.
These stories might sound slight but we are given time to build an understanding of these women and each tale has a heart-stopping moment where they recognise the loneliness of another person. The last tale is the most moving; the quiet rhythm of the horse ranch, the snow and cold, the emotionally charged horse ride and Jamie’s calm composure. I wished the film had ended just a few moments earlier; each story has a small coda, which gave some small resolution but for me wasn’t needed.
Bechdel test – pass