In Certain Women, a new film about four struggling women in the American West, Lily Gladstone plays a nameless rancher who bonds with a work-addled lawyer (Kristen Stewart). The pair's ambiguous chemistry implies a lesbian attraction; however, inspired in part by a page-to-screen gender swap (filmmaker Kelly Reichardt changed Gladstone's rancher from male to female when adapting Maile Meloy's short stories), Gladstone interpreted her role as more trans than gay. "I [felt] that the rancher is exploring her gender identity -- where she fits on this non-binary spectrum," says the 30-year-old newcomer, who was raised on a Blackfeet reservation in the film's setting of Montana. "I've known several rural Montanans who've struggled with this, and it's [compounded] when you're in isolation."
In taking her own creative leap, Gladstone -- whose other costars include Laura Dern and Michelle Williams -- aligned herself with Certain Women's theme about female agency in a world that often thwarts it. The actress has also come to find that gifts, like this part, chase those who stick to their paths. "My dad raised me with the saying, 'Prey runs to the hunter,' " she says. "So far, that's been true."
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