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Missoula actress earns glowing reviews at Sundance

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James Jordan, Sara Rodier, Jared Harris, James LeGros, Kristen Stewart, Kelly Reichardt, Lily Gladstone

Missoula actress Lily Gladstone, far left, poses at the premiere of "Certain Women" during the 2016 Sundance Film Festival last weekend in Park City, Utah. Seen from left are actor James Jordan, from left, actress Sara Rodier, actor Jared Harris, actor James LeGros, actress Kristen Stewart and director and writer Kelly Reichardt.

Positive reviews for "Certain Women," the first Montana feature at the Sundance Film Festival in just over a decade, are rolling in.

Not only have critics responded to director Kelly Reichardt's subtle touch, they've made note of Missoula actress Lily Gladstone, who stars opposite Kristen Stewart in the last third of the movie. Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times, for one, called her "radiant."

Reichardt, known as a director's director, cast the film with top-flight actresses like Laura Dern and Michelle Williams and Stewart, and shot the movie in the Livingston area last spring.

The ensemble piece, based on short stories by Helena-raised Guggenheim fellow Maile Meloy, forms a triptych that relies on quiet ensemble work to relay stories about loneliness and struggle in the lives of everyday women.

Gladstone stars as a solitary ranch-hand who develops a connection with Stewart, who plays a disenchanted law school graduate who teaches and adult-education class.

Writing for Variety, Guy Lodge said the third section was "the most bittersweetly open-hearted."

"Stumbling by chance into a class on educational law for teachers, (Gladstone) develops an intense but innocent fascination with its young tutor, Beth (Stewart), a socially awkward law graduate who lives many towns over. The two develop a mutually bemused rapport over post-class diner meals, though when Beth abruptly quits the job, the terms of their new, ambiguously platonic romance become harder to parse," he wrote.

Guardian film critic Nigel Smith called the third section "the most nakedly emotional of the trio," describing Gladstone as "wonderfully expressive."

"Gladstone conveys a heartbreaking sense of yearning, while never verbally stating as much," he said.

Writing for RogerEbert.com, Brian Tallerico referred to Gladstone as a "breakthrough."

The actress grew up on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation before her family moved to Seattle, where she began acting.

She studied theater at the University of Montana and has worked with the Montana Repertory Theatre on touring productions. She's acted and been involved with numerous Montana films, including the Smith brothers' adaptation of James Welch's "Winter in the Blood," in addition to social-justice work with youths, particularly Native children.

"Certain Women" is the first feature shot in Montana selected for Sundance since Travis Wilkerson's "Who Killed Cock Robin?" in 2005 and the Smith Brothers' "The Slaughter Rule" in 2002, according to the Montana Film Office.

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