With stars like Kristen Stewart, Michelle Williams and Laura Dern, Kelly Reichardt's Certain Women won't get lost at this year's cinematic free-for-all, the Toronto International Film Festival. Opening today, the Canadian festival (along with Telluride and Venice), launches the Awards Season while marking the end of the summer's exploding landmarks and superheroes. Getting lost is a recurrent theme in Reichardt's work, and her female-driven small scale, keenly observed, almost glacial drama traces the intersecting lives of small-town women who refuse to smile for the camera. A lawyer, a teacher, a wife betrayed, a rancher: they experience moments of grace and disappointment that are as intense as they are underplayed.
Despite the film's quiet fury – or perhaps because of it – the major miracle here is Reichardt herself, a female director who, at 52, has etched out six highly personal films running against the grain not only of Hollywood but of the independent star-making machine. A telling dozen years passed between her first feature, River of Grass (1994), and her second Old Joy (2006), which was followed by Wendy and Lucy (2008), Meek's Cutoff (2010) and Night Moves (2013). And, yet, now, as the Florida native who teaches at Bard College discusses her career exclusively with the Observer, she seems to have, in her fifties, mellowed a bit and achieved a level of filmmaking wisdom and consistency that provides a larger lesson to women still struggling against the tide in the film business: