Thursday, May 4, 2023

Review: Riveting "WOMEN TALKING" is a Film That Speaks Directly, Even to Us

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 19 of 2023 (No. 1908) by Leroy Douresseaux

Women Talking (2022)
Running time:  104 minutes (1 hour, 44 minutes)
MPA – PG-13 for mature thematic content including sexual assault, bloody images, and some strong language
DIRECTOR:  Sarah Polley
WRITER:  Sarah Polley (based upon the book by Miriam Toews)
PRODUCERS:  Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner, and Frances McDormand
EDITORS:  Christopher Donaldson and Roslyn Kalloo
COMPOSER:  Hildur Guðnadottir
Academy Award winner


Starring:  Rooney Mara, Claire Foy, Jessie Buckley, France McDormand, Judith Ivey, Emily Mitchell, Kate Hallet, Liv McNeil, Shelia McCarthy, Michelle McLeod, Kira Guloien, Shayla Brown, Vivien Endicott-Douglas, August Winter, and Ben Whishaw

Women Talking is a 2022 drama film from writer-director Sarah Polley. The film is based on Miriam Towes' 2018 Canadian novel, Women Talking.  Both the film and the novel are inspired by real-life events.  Women Talking the film focuses on a group of women who must decide if they should do nothing, stay and fight, or leave their isolated religious community where sexual abuse of girls and women is common.

Women Talking opens in the year 2010 in an unnamed, isolated Mennonite colony.  The colony's women and girls have discovered that some of the men in the colony have been using livestock tranquilizer to subdue them in order to rape them.  Although other men in the colony have had these attackers arrested and imprisoned in a nearby city, they are also seeking bail for the attackers.

The men have left the women by themselves for two days in order for the women to determine what they will do going forward.  However, the men expect the women to forgive their attackers or be expelled from the colony.  The women gather in a barn to discuss and to vote.  They have a young man named August (Ben Whishaw) sit in the meeting in order to take the minutes.  When he was a boy, Ben's mother was expelled from the colony.  Ben returned to become the colony's sole teacher, but he only teaches the boys because women are not allowed to attend school.

Elders like Agata (Judith Ivey) and Greta (Sheila McCarthy) lead the discussion, but young women like Ona (Rooney Mara), Salome (Claire Foy), Mariche (Jessie Buckley), and Mejal (Michelle McLeod) have strong opinions.  Should the women do nothing... forgive... stay and fight... or leave the colony?  As they grapple with the brutal reality of their faith, the time to decide is running out.

Almost four days out from watching Women Talking, and I find myself still thinking about it, dear readers.  In the wake of the of the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in the case of Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization, it feels like a supernaturally timely film.  The “Dobbs decision” held that the Constitution of the United States did not confer a right to abortion.  It is just the latest in a more than three-decade assault on women's rights to reproductive freedom and choice.

Women Talking effectively delivers a valuable message.  The women of the Mennonite colony that this film depicts must confront not only the violence against them, but also a religion designed down to its bones to give men all the power over women.  Their faith essentially renders women and girls indentured servants and non-citizens.

I quibble that writer-director Sarah Polley's direction and Oscar-winning screenplay bury the actresses of Women Talking beneath the scenario and story.  There is a lot of genuine talent here, and I wanted to see more of them, in a broader sense, although no one can really keep Rooney Mara from shining.  In a way, however, that is good thing.  The way Polley presents this makes Women Talking as timeless as it is timely.

Women Talking is truly an exceptional and spectacular film because the women at the heart of its story are talking.  What they say crosses over into our real world.  Because what is depicted in this film is real, it matters.  Women Talking is based on something that happened not that long ago, in this century, so women struggling for equality and human rights must keep talking.  And this movie, Women Talking, is entertainment, educational, and hopefully, inspiration for future generations.

9 of 10
★★★★+ out of 4 stars

Thursday, May 4, 2023

2023 Academy Awards, USA:  1 win: “Best Adapted Screenplay” (Sarah Polley) and 1 nomination: “Best Motion Picture of the Year” (Jeremy Kleiner, Dede Gardner, and Frances McDormand – producers)

2023 Golden Globes, USA:  2 nominations: “Best Original Score - Motion Picture” (Hildur Guðnadóttir) and “Best Screenplay-Motion Picture” (Sarah Polley)

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