Kelly Reichardt

Kelly Reichardt (/ˈrkɑːrt/; born March 3, 1964)[1] is an American film director and screenwriter.[2] She is known for her minimalist-style films, many of which deal with working class characters in small, rural communities.[3][4]

Kelly Reichardt
Kelly Reichardt-4457.jpg
Reichardt in 2020
Born (1964-03-03) March 3, 1964 (age 57)
Miami, Florida, U.S.
Alma materSchool of the Museum of Fine Arts
OccupationFilm director, screenwriter
Years active1994–present

She made her feature film debut with River of Grass (1994), and subsequently directed a series of films set and filmed in Oregon: the dramas Old Joy (2006) and Wendy and Lucy (2008); the Western Meek's Cutoff (2010); and the thriller Night Moves (2013). In 2016, Reichardt wrote and directed the Montana-set drama Certain Women, and in 2019 directed First Cow, again set in Oregon.

Early life and educationEdit

Reichardt was born in 1964 and raised in Miami, Florida. She developed a passion for photography when she was young. Her parents were law enforcement officers who separated when she was young. She earned her MFA at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. Aside from working as a director, she also teaches at liberal arts colleges.[5]

Film careerEdit

Her debut film River of Grass was released in 1994. It was nominated for three Independent Spirit Awards,[6] as well as the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival. It was named as one of the best films of 1995 by the Boston Globe, Film Comment, and The Village Voice. Reichardt then had trouble making another feature film, saying "I had 10 years from the mid-1990s when I couldn’t get a movie made. It had a lot to do with being a woman. That’s definitely a factor in raising money. During that time, it was impossible to get anything going, so I just said, ‘Fuck you!’ and did Super 8 shorts instead."[7]

In 1999, she completed her sophomore feature, Ode, based on Herman Raucher's novel Ode to Billy Joe. Next, she made two short films, Then a Year, made in 2001, and Travis, which deals with the Iraq War, in 2004.[8] In these two films, critics have noted that she makes clear her displeasure with the Bush administration and their handling of the Iraq War in a subtle manner that she often does.[7]

Most of her films are regarded by critics to be part of the minimalist movement in films.[7]

In 2006, she completed Old Joy, based on a short story in Jon Raymond's collection Livability. Daniel London and singer-songwriter Will Oldham portray two friends who reunite for a camping trip to the Cascades and Bagby Hot Springs, near Portland, Oregon.[9] The film won awards from the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, Rotterdam International Film Festival, and Sarasota Film Festival. Notably, it was the first American film to win the Tiger Award at the Rotterdam Film Festival. Neil Kopp won the Producer's Award at the 2007 Independent Spirit Awards for his work on Old Joy and Paranoid Park.

For her next film, Wendy and Lucy, she and Jon Raymond adapted another story from Livability. The film explores the themes of loneliness and hopelessness through the story of a woman looking for her lost dog. The film was released in December 2008 and earned Oscar buzz for lead actress Michelle Williams. It was nominated for Best Film and Best Female Lead at the Independent Spirit Awards. She then directed Meek's Cutoff, a Western starring Michelle Williams. It competed for the Golden Lion at the 67th Venice International Film Festival in 2010.[10]

In 2013, her film Night Moves debuted in competition at the 70th Venice International Film Festival. The film was considered a shift in tone from her other slower and more melancholic films due to the story suggesting a more intense thriller about a secret plot to blow up a dam.

Reichardt's film Certain Women is based on Maile Meloy's 2009 collection of short stories, Both Ways is the Only Way I Want It, and was shot in March/April 2015 in Montana. Michelle Williams, Laura Dern, and Kristen Stewart are starring.[11] Sony Pictures Worldwide Acquisitions (SPWA) bought the rights to distribution.[12] The film premiered January 24, 2016 at the Sundance Film Festival. Reichardt won the top award at the 2016 London Film Festival for Certain Women.[13]

In October 2016, Reichardt revealed that for her next film she will be collaborating with author Patrick DeWitt in an adaptation of his novel Undermajordomo Minor, which could possibly be shot outside of the U.S.[14][15] In October 2018, it was announced Reichardt had put Undermajordomo Minor on hold and would instead reunite with Raymond to direct First Cow, an adaptation of his novel The Half-Life.[16]

Overall, the films that she has directed have all received positive reviews from critics, with all of them being above 80% (certified fresh) on the film reviews aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, with the highest being River of Grass and First Cow (both 95%). Being a director working in indie cinema, her films have not been huge hits at the box office, with Certain Women being the most successful at $1.1 million.[17]  

Reichardt is also an Artist-in-Residence in the Film and Electronic Arts program at Bard College.[18] Reichardt is the recipient of a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship[19]

She edits her films herself.[7]  

Style and themesEdit

Reichardt's films have often been called minimalist and realist, with film critic A. O. Scott describing Wendy and Lucy as part of a new American Independent cinema he termed "Neo-Neo Realism", primarily due to its thematic and aesthetic similarity to the classic Italian neorealist films like Rome Open City and Paisan.[7] Reichardt herself has stated that her films are "just glimpses of people passing through".[20] She also recognises her style of minimalist storytelling, saying that "A movie is a series of reveals, essentially, and then you're supposed to sit in a room and tell someone what it all means. That goes against everything that I just worked for, so I have no interest in summing it all up. It's all out there".[21] The realist tendencies in her films positions them in line with Matthew Flanagan's idea of slow cinema due to her use of long takes, minimal dialogue and minimalist action, which are all characteristics of slow cinema that allow the audience to pause for contemplation.[22]

In addition to this realist style, her films often focus on characters who are living in the margins of society, who are not usually represented on screen, or who are in search of a better quality of life and place in the world. She is interested in characters "who don’t have a net, who if you sneezed on them, their world would fall apart".[23] Her films tackle distinct aspects of the American experience that are seldom explored by the commercial film industry. Eric Kohn (from Indiewire) supports this sentiment in his description of her films as "a mesmerising statement on the solitude of everyday life for working-class people who want something better. They’re trapped between a mythology of greatness and the personal limitations that govern their drab realities. By attending to atmosphere and attitude as much as plot, Reichardt has quietly become one of the country’s best chroniclers of the American experience".[24]

Her films often also contain references to modern times and political events. In an interview, she discusses the parallels of Meek’s Cutoff to modern times, saying "Here was the story of this braggart leading a bunch of people into the desert without a plan and becoming completely reliant on the locals who are socially different from him and who he is suspicious of. All of which seemed relevant to the moment"[7] (in reference to the Iraq War and George Bush). Reichardt has confirmed in many interviews that the character of Meek is intentionally written to be similar with Bush. Wendy and Lucy also reflects the economic hardships that affected millions of Americans (particularly women, whom the film suggests are affected more than men) as a result of the high costs and collateral damage from the war.[7]  

Furthermore, critics have noted that her films frequently have ambiguous endings that leave the audience hanging and unsatisfied. Xan Brooks (from The Guardian) uses the examples of "wonky Kurt, left wandering city streets at the end of Old Joy, hapless Wendy, still looking for Alaska, or Meek’s Cutoff’s lost pioneers, forever strung between triumph and disaster. These films do not so much resolve as dissolve. They leave us dangling, forced to write their third acts in our heads”.[20] Reichardt elaborates on this, saying "Maybe I’m suspicious of absolutes. I mean, yes, there is something satisfying about watching an old film when the music rises up and the words come at you – The End. But it would seem absurd to do that at the end of one of my films. It would just make them feel lopsided, because they’re all so short, they cover so little time. We don’t know where these people were before. We spent a week with them and then on they went".[20]

She has also said that she enjoys films that let the audience find their own way into it and come to their own conclusions.[20]

Reichardt's films all contain feminist ideas in both style and content, rejecting mainstream commercial film making methods and focusing on issues of gender (most of her films have female characters as the lead), but she herself rejects the label of a feminist filmmaker. She rejects mainstream methods by using small budgets, filming on location (the majority of her films are shot in Oregon), and refusing to romanticise the main characters and their struggles. Even in her films that have male characters as protagonists, she still addresses gender issues. In Old Joy, which stars two men and was spoken about in festivals as an LGBT film,[25] the theme of male friendship is highlighted and addressed through the feminised qualities of sensitivity and vulnerability that are rarely seen in mainstream Hollywood cinema. In Night Moves, Dakota Fanning's character serves as a strong female counterpoint to Jesse Eisenberg's male protagonist, and the film's environmental story line reflects eco-feminist values. In addition to her feminist themes, Reichardt rejects mainstream methods through the avant-garde content in her films. River of Grass uses the avant-garde technique of segmenting the narrative via numbers while Certain Women does so via episodes. Reichardt's use of realism and camera angles rejects the objectification of bodies and challenges the expectations of audiences by lingering on shots of seemingly insignificant images after characters have left a scene.[22]  

Reichardt has frequently collaborated with actress Michelle Williams, saying that she enjoys working with her due to her confidence and inquisitive nature, and that she can never guess what she's going to do.[26]


Year Title Role Notes Ref.
1994 River of Grass Director/screenwriter/co-story writer Feature directorial debut [4]
1999 Ode Director/screenwriter/cinematographer Short film [27]
2001 Then a Year Director Short film [28]
2004 Travis Director Short film [29]
2006 Old Joy Director/screenwriter/editor [4]
2008 Wendy and Lucy Director/co-screenwriter/editor [4]
2010 Meek's Cutoff Director/editor [4]
2013 Night Moves Director/co-screenwriter/editor [4]
2016 Certain Women Director/screenwriter/editor [4]
2019 First Cow Director/co-screenwriter/editor [30]


Year Institution Category Nominated work Result Ref.
1994 Sundance Film Festival Grand Jury Prize: Dramatic River of Grass Nominated [31]
1995 Independent Spirit Awards Best First Feature River of Grass Nominated
1995 Independent Spirit Awards Best First Screenplay River of Grass Nominated
1995 Independent Spirit Awards Someone to Watch Award River of Grass Nominated
2006 Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards Independent/Experimental Film and Video Award Old Joy Won
2006 Rotterdam International Film Festival Tiger Award Old Joy Won
2006 Sarasota Film Festival Jury Prize Old Joy Won
2008 Cannes Film Festival Un Certain Regard Award Wendy and Lucy Nominated
2008 Chicago International Film Festival Gold Hugo (Best Feature) Wendy and Lucy Nominated
2010 Venice Film Festival SIGNIS Award Meek's Cutoff Won
Golden Lion Meek's Cutoff Nominated
2010 Gotham Awards Gotham Independent Film Award Meek's Cutoff Nominated
2013 Venice Film Festival Golden Lion Night Moves Nominated
2016 Film Independent Spirit Awards Best Director Certain Women Nominated
2016 Gotham Awards Audience Award Certain Women Nominated
2016 Gotham Awards Gotham Independent Film Award (Best Feature) Certain Women Nominated
2016 London Film Festival Best Film (Official Competition) Certain Women Won
2020 Film Independent Spirit Award Bonnie Award Won
2020 Berlin Film Festival Golden Bear First Cow Nominated


  • James Lattimer, Eva Sangiorgi, ed., Textur #2: Kelly Reichardt. Viennale – Vienna International Film Festival 2020, ISBN 978-3-901770-49 4
  • Seymour, Nicole; Fusco, Katherine (2017). Kelly Reichardt (Contemporary Film Directors). University of Illinois Press. ISBN 978-0252083051.


  1. ^ "United States Public Records, 1970-2009," (May 16, 2014), Kelly A. Reichardt, Residence, North Miami, Florida, United States. Retrieved May 9, 2019. (subscription required)
  2. ^ Hudson, D.W. (September 22, 2008). "NYFF: Wendy and Lucy". GreenCine Daily. Archived from the original on June 25, 2013. Retrieved July 22, 2014.
  3. ^ Kohn, Eric (October 13, 2016). "Kelly Reichardt Is One of the Best Filmmakers in America, and We Don't Appreciate Her Enough — NYFF". Indiewire. Archived from the original on December 25, 2016.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g Brown, Sophie (March 14, 2017). "Where to begin with Kelly Reichardt". British Film Institute. Archived from the original on April 6, 2019.
  5. ^ "Kelly Reichardt". IMDb. Retrieved November 17, 2018.
  6. ^ "River of Grass". Variety.[dead link]
  7. ^ a b c d e f g "Kelly Reichardt • Great Director profile • Senses of Cinema". Retrieved November 17, 2018.
  8. ^ Hall 2018, pp. 36, 42.
  9. ^ Hall 2018, pp. 45–47.
  10. ^ Bradshaw, Peter (September 6, 2010). "Meek's Cutoff and Post Mortem shine at Venice film festival". The Guardian.
  11. ^ McNary, Dave (February 27, 2015). "Kristen Stewart Joins Kelly Reichardt's Montana Drama". Variety.
  12. ^ Mike Fleming Jr (April 16, 2015). "Kelly Reichardt's New Film Lands At Sony Pictures Worldwide Acquisitions". Deadline.
  13. ^ "60th BFI London Film Festival announces 2016 awards winners" (Press release). BFI. October 17, 2016. Retrieved October 18, 2016.
  14. ^ "With rugged feminist piece 'Certain Women,' Kelly Reichardt shows why she's the last indie purist (for now)". Los Angeles Times. October 21, 2016.
  15. ^ Tauer, Kristen (October 14, 2016). "'Certain Women' Director Kelly Reichardt Discusses Her Latest Film". Women's Wear Daily.
  16. ^ Raup, Jordan (October 31, 2018). "Kelly Reichardt Sets 'Certain Women' Follow-Up with 'First Cow'". The Film Stage. Retrieved November 25, 2018.
  17. ^ "Kelly Reichardt". Retrieved November 17, 2018.
  18. ^ "Faculty: Kelly Reichardt". Bard College. June 20, 2014. Retrieved July 22, 2014.
  19. ^ "Kelly Reichardt". John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. 2014. Archived from the original on July 28, 2014. Retrieved July 22, 2014.
  20. ^ a b c d Brooks, Xan (August 21, 2014). "Kelly Reichardt: 'My films are just glimpses of people passing through'". the Guardian. Retrieved November 17, 2018.
  21. ^ "Director Kelly Reichardt explores idealism in Night Moves". Retrieved November 17, 2018.
  22. ^ a b Hall, E. Dawn. The films of Kelly Reichardt. ISBN 9781474444620. OCLC 1054396795.
  23. ^ Gregory, Alice. "The Quiet Menace of Kelly Reichardt's Feminist Westerns". Retrieved November 17, 2018.
  24. ^ Kohn, Eric (October 3, 2016). "Kelly Reichardt Is One of the Best Filmmakers in America, and We Don't Appreciate Her Enough — NYFF". IndieWire. Retrieved November 17, 2018.
  25. ^ Hall 2018, p. 3.
  26. ^ "'Certain Women' director on working with Michelle Williams". am New York. Retrieved November 17, 2018.
  27. ^ Mathieson, Craig (May 31, 2011). "Retrospective: Kelly Reichardt". SBS. Archived from the original on May 9, 2019. Retrieved May 10, 2019.
  28. ^ Hall 2018, p. 36.
  29. ^ Hall 2018, p. 42.
  30. ^ Nordine, Michelle (October 31, 2018). "'First Cow': Kelly Reichardt's Follow-Up to 'Certain Women' Is a Period Piece Set in Oregon and China". Indiewire. Archived from the original on November 3, 2018.
  31. ^ Hall 2018, p. 16.


External linksEdit