Women Talking (2022)

Women Talking
Director: Sarah Polley
Writer: Sarah Polley
Based on: Miriam Toewsnovel
Cast: Rooney Mara, Judith Ivey, Emily Mitchell, Kate Hallett, Liv McNeil, Claire Foy, Sheila McCarthy, Jessie Buckley, Michelle McLeod, Kira Guloien, Shayla Brown, Frances McDormand, Vivien Endicott Douglas, Ben Whishaw, August Winter
Seen on: 15.2.2023

Content Note: rape

The women of the small Mennonite community have to make a decision. They have discovered that a few of their men have drugged and raped them over years – and all the other men told them it was their imagination. Now the rapists have been arrested, and the rest of the men have gone to the city to bail them out. The women have 48 hours to decide on their course of action: leave the community, fight for their place in it, or pretend it never happened. A council of eight comes together to discuss their options but opinions vary widely.

Women Talking is less interested in making a film, than it is in making a film about something. Fortunately, the subject matter it chose is interesting, worth exploring and the film is generally well done.

The film poster showing two clasped hands in front of two blue skirts with different patterns.

Women Talking has an almost theater-like quality about it, most of it taking place in the barn where the women meet to make their decision. True to the title, nothing much happens apart from them talking. But then again, their talking in that way, making a decision in that way, is absolutely revolutionary for them – saying that nothing happens is selling the effect and meaning of this talk short.

That being said, the film will certainly appeal more to people who like to engage with their films intellectually than emotionally. The performances are strong and the actors get the most out of their characters, but for the most part, their characters are less people than types, and so it is harder to relate to them on an emotional level. I, for one, was completely wrapped up in their discussion, though, and didn’t mind that lack of emotionality. In fact, given the gravity of the assaults they all endured, I am pretty glad I could keep it at more of a distance, emotionally.

The council of women who need to make the decision.

The two characters who get more attention as people than the rest are Ona (Rooney Mara) and, ironically, August (Ben Whishaw) – the one good man. Their romance that is never acted on but has been going on forever is the only personal plot, and I have to admit that it bothered me a little. Wishaw is good enough that I wasn’t bothered by August’s presence completely, but the romance didn’t sit right with me. And Ona was a little too good and Rooney Mara a little too soft to make me buy the character in its refusal to do what is expected of her.

But it’s easy to ignore that and focus on the women and their discussion – it is the heart of the film in any case. And there, Polley wonderfully managed to show the variety of women and opinions that we like to ignore in small marginalized communities. Many arguments are made, and in the end a decision is made that can maybe be disagreed with, but not faulted. And it’s always interesting to think along with.

August (Ben Whishaw), Ona (Rooney Mara) and Salome (Claire Foy) looking into the distance.

Summarizing: very good. Watch it.

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