'Certain Women' Star Lily Gladstone Deserves Awards Attention

Hollywood is a tough business to crack, and awards season is a roller coaster to navigate. Often the award-worthy performances are decided upon months in advance when certain industry figures decide whose time it is or isn't to win. With so much politicking, fantastic performances can oftentimes get lost in the shuffle. But sometimes, an unknown actor bursts through the chaos, wows audiences with a glorious performance, and takes home gold. I'm hoping that this year, that newcomer is Lily Gladstone, who deserves some awards season love for her subtly beautiful performance in the film Certain Women.

Directed by Kelly Reichardt, Certain Women is a lovely, quiet, slice-of-life film that follows the intersecting lives of four women living in remote areas of Montana. Laura Dern stars as a lawyer whose encounters with her hilariously moronic client highlights sexism and mansplaining. Michelle Williams, a staple in Reichardt films like Wendy and Lucy and Meek's Cutoff, plays a woman on the hunt for some authentic stone with which to build her dream house. Kristen Stewart plays a young law school graduate who has reluctantly taken a teaching job four hours from where she lives. But the shining star of Certain Women is definitely Gladstone, who plays the ranch hand that Stewart's character befriends.

Gladstone's character Jamie spends her days taking care of horses on remote snowy fields and in quiet barns. But one night, in a break from the monotony of her job, she drives into town and wanders into a night class being taught by Stewart's character Beth. The two strike up a friendship based on the fact that Beth has little idea where she is, or why she took the job. But Jamie's interest in Beth definitely extends beyond friendship. In a subtle yet moving way, Gladstone imbues Jamie with an infatuation with Beth that is simultaneously based in romance and curiosity. She seems to be both in love with the woman and with the idea of driving away with her, leaving the farm behind forever. The conclusion of Jamie's obsession is incredibly heartbreaking, yet Gladstone never takes it over the top. Hers is, in my opinion, one of the best performances of the year.

And some critics have noted this already. Gladstone was nominated by the Gotham Independent Film Awards for Breakthrough Actor, and by the Independent Spirit Awards for Best Supporting Female. Hopefully, these accolades will extend into further ceremonies, such as the SAG Awards, Golden Globes, or even the Academy Awards. When the Gotham nomination was announced, Gladstone told her home town newspaper The Missoulian, that the nomination was exciting, saying, "When anyone is nominated, it's a validation that the project is as spectacular as you thought." Elaborating more on the film, she added, "This one does touch a deep nerve for a lot of people on a lot of different levels." Indeed, Gladstone's performance doesn't hand everything to you. In the end, Jamie is still a bit of a mystery, but one that completely captivates you.

Gladstone's inclusion in the main awards race would not honor her impressive talent, and it would also add diversity to the typically-white group of nominees for any given awards show. Gladstone is Native American, with roots in the Kainai, Amskapi Piikani, and Nimi’ipuu First Nations, and was raised on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation in Browning, Montana. The fact that a woman of color plays a lead role in an LGBT storyline in a female-centric film is remarkable in and of itself, but with Gladstone's performance, Certain Woman becomes even more deserving of attention. Here's hoping that come nomination time, the major awards show give this newcomer some love.

Images: IFC Films