Kelly Reichardt had a few challenges when it came to filming "Certain Women." The first one was location, location, location.
Most of the director’s previous films – including "Meek’s Cutoff," "Wendy and Lucy" and 2013’s "Night Moves" – dealt with the characters’ relationship to the land around them and were mostly shot outdoors.
"To be honest, I shot so much outdoor film because when I started I just couldn’t afford lights," Reichardt says. "When I was making ‘Night Moves,’ there were all these complicated outdoor shots and all of that was really comfortable to me, and then there was one day we shot inside a house. It was just in a kitchen and it was the hardest scene for me in the whole movie. ‘What do I do with these four walls?’ I had no idea."
Reichardt made sure "Certain Women," which opened locally Friday, would be different. "I set it up as a challenge for myself: I had to have some interiors in this film," she says. "I had to conquer that."
That’s one reason most of the film takes place inside. It’s made up of three thematically linked short films, all based on short stories by Maile Meloy.
In the first, Laura Dern plays a lawyer working with a client who will not take her advice that he has no case – until they visit a male lawyer who concurs. In the second, a woman (Michelle Williams) moving to Montana with her family seeks sandstone for her dream home. She spots some in a man’s front yard and offers to buy it, but he will only negotiate with her husband. In the last story, a rancher (Lily Gladstone) develops a crush after accidentally wandering into a class taught by a young law student (Kristen Stewart).
While the storylines never connect, they all feature women trying to navigate a world in which the rules for being a woman the "right" way are unwritten but still very much in play. It was Reichardt’s job to make them work as a cohesive whole.
"They were shot as three separate films, but you have to keep in mind the overall arc of it," Reichardt says. "Hopefully, the third story reverberates back to the earlier story. Hopefully the work for that has been set up."