30-Second Synopsis: Four women live in gorgeous, isolated towns in Montana. One lawyer (Laura Dern) has to manage the expectations of an injured client seeking workers' compensation, and then diffuse a hostage situation when that client finally snaps. Another lawyer (Kristen Stewart) gets stuck teaching a class in a farming town four hours away. She has a very brief friendship with one of her students, a ranch hand (Lily Gladstone) who mistakes their after-class dinners for a budding romance. The ranch hand spends her days taking care of horses, alone save the company of a Corgi pup. A woman (Michelle Williams) and her husband build a house together, and clash over how to raise their teenage daughter.
Meet the "Certain Women"
Laura (Laura Dern): This lawyer, named Laura, is confusingly played by Laura Dern. We first meet her in a motel, after she's just slept with a man whose identity is revealed later in the film. Eventually, her male friend ends their affair. She has a client, Mr. Fuller, who was injured in an accident at his workplace, and has desperately been seeking workers' compensation for months. When Mr. Fuller realizes he legally can't win any more money, he goes to his former employer's offices at night and holds the security guard hostage. Laura is sent into the building to try to diffuse the situation.
Gina (Michelle Williams): We first meet Gina when she's supposed to be on a run, but is actually sneaking a cigarette in the woods. She and her husband, Ryan (who, whoops, is the guy having an affair with Laura!), are building a new house from the ground up. They argue about how to discipline their teenage daughter, who seems to prefer Ryan to Gina. When the couple visits an elderly man to ask if they can buy a pile of sandstone that's been sitting in his yard for decades, the man repeatedly interrupts and ignores Gina, choosing instead to do business with her husband. Gina will not be deterred, however. She will buy that sandstone.
Jamie (Lily Gladstone): Outside the tiny town of Belfry, Montana, Jamie takes care of horses on a ranch by herself during the winter. We see her performing the same tasks every day, leading horses out to pasture, brushing their hair, moving hay to different pens. Everywhere she goes on the ranch, she's followed by a Corgi. Driving around the town at night, Jamie sees cars turning into the local school's parking lot. She follows people inside to find they're taking a class on education law taught by Beth. Jamie quickly develops a crush on Beth, even going so far as to drive several hours to another town to find her.
Beth (Kristen Stewart): A young lawyer, Beth takes a teaching gig at night to make some extra money. She agrees to teach a class in Belfry, Montana, which is four hours away, mistaking it for another town that's closer. Beth asks Jamie for dinner recommendations after the first class, and the two go to the town's diner. Over the next couple of weeks, Beth explains that she comes from a poor, uneducated family, and the most that was ever expected of her is that she'd work in a shoe shop. Tired of the commute, Beth abruptly quits teaching the class without telling Jamie, and arrives at her regular job one morning to find Jamie waiting for her in the parking lot.
The anti-heroines of "Certain Women" don't lead the most romantic lives, but they're all introspective, independent characters doing thankless, hard work.
Best Look: Laura Dern in beautiful knitwear—a wool skirt and a cashmere sweater in a warm neutral (she asks her Ryan if he thinks it's camel, he says it's taupe).
Best Look, Runner-Up: Kristen Stewart in bleached mom jeans, a mustard sweater vest, and sneakers she borrowed from Jerry Seinfeld.
Best Quote: "It'd be so lovely if I were a man. I could explain the law, and people would say, 'OK.' It'd be so restful." — Laura/Laura Dern
Best Breakout Role: Listen, that Corgi has become a crowd favorite. Jenni Miller of Bust and The Cut tweeted, "Really great Corgi in Certain Women. A+ furry pantaloons." A commenter on Variety's review wrote, "The most exciting scene was a Corgi chasing a 4-wheeler." The Hollywood Reporter called him "boisterous, scene-stealing." Come for the depictions of independent women, stay for the Corgi.
Best Breakout Role, Runner-Up: The sound of a train horn, which reverberates in the background of every scene shot in Livingston, Montana. It basically becomes another character, loneliness personified as sound, one long, sad, desolate peal.
Fun Fact: Certain Women was adapted from Maile Meloy's short story collection, Both Ways Is the Only Way I Want It. Meloy is the sister of Colin Meloy, whose band, The Decemberists, frequently reference Montana.