"It's difficult to comprehend what the actual point of Certain Women is – what is it trying to achieve?"Film Science

An apt summary for the enjoyment derivable from Certain Women is the opening scene, where a freight train snakes across a bland and inconspicuous Montana landscape. The scene goes on for far too long and is meaningless, tedious and ambiguous. Herein are the problematic elements of Certain Women.

It’s difficult to attempt to write a plot summary for a film that is devoid of any plot, or indeed substance of any variation. Nominally, Certain Women follows a handful of lives and their intensely inauspicious day-to-day interactions. For example there is Laura Dern, who plays Laura Wells, a submissive lawyer who has a frustrating tendency to obediently conform to the wishes of a variety of male characters, including a disgruntled client and the police chief. The other characters are equally uninteresting.

“It isn’t explicitly trying to accomplish anything, other than unnerve the viewer through the sheer mundane nature of the character’s lives”

Perhaps the most frustrating element of Certain Women, however, is the inaccurate portrayal of Montana, and of the rural American life. It’s almost as if the directors have chosen to airbrush the loud, brash and ugly features of America that society is so familiar with. Presumably this is part of their agenda to create an alternative film at all costs, something that incessant McDonald’s outlets isn’t conducive to.

Another significant factor in this inaccuracy is the lack of dialogue – the cast is exceptionally quiet and passive – they barely say anything. Again, this at odds with the American way of life and the reputation that Americans have for being verbally profuse – just look at Donald Trump’s Twitter feed. The absence of the bustle of America – even in rural Montana – is missing, which fundamentally contradicts the attempt Certain Women makes to be both alternative and authentic.

The artificial absence of noise in Certain Women is deeply off-putting. It isn’t just the absence of dialogue that this is manifested in, but also the general quietness of standard interactions that are associated with being noisy. One scene in particular underlines this: builders are hacking away at a pile of sandstone, silent – even the noise of their tools against the hard rock was unnervingly quiet. Apparently alternatively is derived from silence, either allowing you to appreciate the subtleties of the cinematography, or for your mind to contemplate the pointlessness of Certain Women.

It’s difficult to comprehend what the actual point of Certain Women is – what is it trying to achieve? I suspect this is rather the aim – it isn’t explicitly trying to accomplish anything, other than unnerve the viewer through the sheer mundane nature of the character’s lives.

It isn’t necessary for a film to be inundated with excessive violence, action or excitement for it to be enjoyable, or worth watching. Certain Women, however, goes so far in the other direction that it consigns itself to bland mediocrity. Its poorly executed attempt at portraying reality is ironically unrealistic and devoid of the human features that give life the vitality of existence

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