‘Certain Women’ director Kelly Reichardt on working with Michelle Williams

Like previous works “Meek’s Cutoff” and “Wendy and Lucy,” Kelly Reichardt’s “Certain Women” is a meditative journey where pregnant pauses between characters are welcome for silent discoveries. The film, set in Montana, is broken into three vignettes featuring strong-willed women and in some instances the men who undermine their abilities in various ways.

In the first segment of the film, out Oct. 14, Laura Dern plays a lawyer whose frustrating client refuses to listen to her advice, despite being qualified. In the second section, Michelle Williams plays an exasperated mother and wife sent out to obtain sandstone from an elderly man. Lastly, Kristen Stewart is a lawyer who teaches hours away from her home but connects with her student, a ranch hand, beautifully played by breakout actress Lily Gladstone.

amNewYork spoke with director Kelly Reichardt about capturing Montana and collaborating with Stewart and Williams again.


Your films are incredibly visual; you show rather than tell an audience in terms of narrative. Did you always gravitate toward this type of storytelling?

I enjoy a movie that’s letting me find my own way into it and come to my own conclusions. I like the idea of someone leaving the film, and walking home and disagreeing with another person that saw the movie. I want there to be space for a viewer to linger and have a different experience to it.


How does your relationship with your cinematographer inform your work? You’ve worked with him before.

Christopher Blauvelt is just so open. I’ll start sharing images with him, and scouting images, first it’s just paintings that I’m thinking of, or photographs from others, and then we’ll eventually get together, and we’ll wade into it. A lot of times, I have storyboard and images and he has to find the way to make it really work. The more you work with someone the more intuitive it becomes. He doesn’t have a lot of ego. He never stops trying to make it better.


You collaborate with Michelle Williams often. Why are you drawn to her performances?

I didn’t get to work with Michelle the last time, so I was looking forward to seeing her again. Michelle and I have a shortcut language. She’s such a confident actress — at this point, especially — but she’s always questioning stuff. She’s very pleasurable to work with and to watch in editing, and to see over the years how she just gets better.


How has it been to watch Michelle’s evolution as an actress?

She’s really funny in this one. She’s a smooth operator. She was so up for not caring if her character was likable. It was never a question. She’s just up for it. It’s just been fun to watch her grow. She’s becoming more and more confident but there’s something that’s so open and looking for opportunities. She’s always fully in the scene and responding.


You’ve been in the industry for years. Have you seen independent cinema shift?

I’m really not in the business, I’m just making films in my little world. I know there are more movies than ever. Some of the battles we’ve always had — there’s blockbusters and award seasons that last forever, and knocks everything else out. It just makes it a scene — the amount of money that goes into advertising for the awards campaigns, just makes it impossible for small films. On the other hand, its like being in New York, the Metrograph is open, IFC is adding screens. It feels like a film town again.

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