Women Talking

Women Talking

Do nothing. Stay and fight. Or leave. In 2010, the women of an isolated religious community grapple with reconciling a brutal reality with their faith.

Last of the ‘Best Picture’ nominees at the Oscars this year for me to see is ‘Women Talking’, Sarah Polley’s considered movie about the women of a Mennonite society who come together to decide how to respond to repeated sexual and physical abuses at the hands of the men of the community. The film begins in the aftermath of a serious assault which led to outside involvement, and follows the women of the community as they gather to discuss their response whilst the men are in town to bail out the offenders. The choices laid on the table are to forgive the men, to stay and fight for change, or to run, and the movie centres on how the women talk through their options, considering the pros and cons and implications on them, their children and their community of whichever action they end up taking. Think of it not unlike ’12 Angry Men’ in terms of the setup.

Women Talking’ features an ensemble cast including Rooney Mara, Claire Foy & Jessie Buckley, with Frances McDormand popping up from time to time, all of whom play Mennonite women who have been affected to different degrees by the men. We never see any of the men foregrounded with the exception of Ben Whishaw, the community schoolteacher who has been tasked with taking the minutes of their meetings, which allows our focus to be squarely on the female members of the community. It takes place almost entirely in a barn and that lends the movie a very stagey feel, which to a degree works well for the subject matter at hand by emphasising the claustrophobic situation these individuals find themselves in, if at the expense of some of the tension that should come with the ticking clock nature of the decision they must make.

It is a serious subject and it is looked at with nuance, but being brutally honest I struggled to really connect with the movie and found it a bit of a slog to get through. Perhaps it is because I am a man and not the target audience, or perhaps it’s because the approach to the discussion felt a bit too similar to a planning session at work, but I found ‘Women Talking’ to be a worthy movie, but not a particularly compelling one.

Rating: 3/5

Directed By: Sarah Polley

Starring: Claire Foy, Rooney Mara, Jessie Buckley, Judith Ivey, Ben Whishaw, Sheila McCarthy and Frances McDormand


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