One of my favorite films of last year was Kelly Reichardt’s somber triptych Certain Women. Its minimalist sensibility and powerful characters make for a near-perfect example of a film that has volumes to say without exhibiting a needlessly complicated narrative. I loved everything about it, so naturally I’m terribly excited that it is now available on Criterion Blu-ray.
The film tells the loosely connected stories of three women living in rural Montana. Michelle Williams plays a domineering transplant to the area, determined to create an “authentic” mid-western life for her and her family. Laura Dern plays a lawyer desperately trying to convince her client he has no case despite his sexism not allowing him to acknowledge her opinion. And Lily Gladstone plays a lonely rancher who develops a crush on her teacher, played by Kristen Stewart.
Each beautifully shot section brings a uniquely elegant story to light, making it not only one of Reichardt’s finest films, but easily one of the best pieces of cinema of 2016.
The Criterion Collection has smartly realized this as well and has decided to add it to their massive list of classic titles. The cover art is well done and complements the tone of the film, although the disc art itself is so minimalist that it’s almost non-existent, featuring simply the title of the film next to the larger Criterion ‘C’ logo.
Normally Criterion releases are packed to the brim with bonus content and supplements, but in the case of Certain Women, there’s very little to offer here. The only thing included on the disc is a series of interviews with writer-director Kelly Reichardt; executive producer Todd Haynes; and Malie Meloy, the author of the short stories on which the film is based. While these interviews are well produced and insightful, their brief length – combined with the lack of much else on the disc, aside from the trailer – makes this one of Criterion’s lightest offerings. No behind-the-scenes featurettes and, more disappointing, no audio commentary.
I would still recommend picking this one up on the merits of the film alone, but if a digital release is less expensive, this may be one of the rare instances that I might purchase that version instead. Either way, this is still a magnificent film that it absolutely worth your time and dollars.