Kelly Reichardt is one of America’s leading, and most distinctive, independent directors. Her work is consistent in quality yet ever-evolving, the nuance and subtlety she achieves as director and writer is amplified by, and dependent on, her precision editing.
Reichardt has forged deep collaborative relationships with, among others, actor Michelle Williams, writer Jon Raymond and cinematographer Christopher Blauvelt, with whom she’s developed a compelling visual style.
Permeated by a fragile sense of ecological and emotional peril, the deceptively simple narratives of Reichardt’s subtly political films can turn on a resonant gesture, an unspoken word or a singular look. The characters are America’s wild-eyed ramblers and flinty outsiders; everyday folk hobbled by loneliness, isolation and monotony.
She maps landscapes – suburban Florida, the velvety forests and rocky plains of Oregon, small-town Montana – as living, breathing entities. Her wide-shots, and elongated pans create a vastness and a sense of distance between aspirations and reality, especially when framing her female characters.
Kelly Reichardt is the director of seven feature films: River of Grass (1994), Old Joy (2006), Wendy and Lucy (2008), Meek’s Cutoff (2010), Night Moves (2013), Certain Women (2016), and First Cow (2019). Her work was the subject of a retrospective that took place at the Museum of Modern Art in the fall of 2017. She is currently S. William Senfeld Artist-in-Residence at Bard College and Baby Jane Holzer Visiting Artist in Film at Harvard University.
RIVER OF GRASS (1994)
Cozy, a dissatisfied housewife, meets Lee at a bar. A drink turns into a home break-in, and a gun shot sends them on the run together, thinking they’ve committed murder.
OLD JOY (2006)
Soon to be a father, Mark feels the pressure of domestic responsibility closing in, so he is more than happy to accept when his old friend Kurt proposes a camping trip in the Oregon wilderness. During their time together, the men come to grips with the changes in their lives and the effect on their relationship.
WENDY AND LUCY (2008)
Wendy, a near-penniless drifter, is traveling to Alaska in search of work, and her only companion is her dog, Lucy. Already perilously close to losing everything, Wendy hits a bigger bump in the road when her old car breaks down and she is arrested for shoplifting dog food. When she posts bail and returns to retrieve Lucy, she finds that the dog is gone, prompting a frantic search for her pet.
Available on DVD in the UK
MEEK’S CUTOFF (2010)
Set in 1845, this drama follows a group of settlers as they embark on a punishing journey along the Oregon Trail. When their guide leads them astray, the expedition is forced to contend with the unforgiving conditions of the high plain desert.
NIGHT MOVES (2013)
The story is about three radical environmentalists coming together to execute the most intense protest of their lives: the explosion of a hydroelectric dam.
CERTAIN WOMEN (2016)
Three strong-willed women strive to forge their own paths amidst the wide-open plains of the American Northwest: a lawyer forced to subdue a troubled client; a wife and mother whose plans to construct her dream home reveal fissures in her marriage; and a lonely ranch hand who forms an ambiguous bond with a young law student. lonely ranch hand who forms an ambiguous bond with a young law student.
FIRST COW (2019)
A taciturn loner and skilled cook has travelled west and joined a group of fur trappers in Oregon Territory, though he only finds true connection with a Chinese immigrant also seeking his fortune; soon the two collaborate on a successful business, although its longevity is reliant upon the clandestine participation of a nearby wealthy landowner’s prized milking cow. Jane Holzer Visiting Artist in Film at Harvard University.
In cinemas today (28 May) and streaming on MUBI from 9 July 2021