“Women Talking” occasionally allows its focus to be stray from its primary subject—as you would have guessed, women talking—to watch girls’ hands as they draw images, play challenging clapping and string-figure games, or braid each other’s hair into intricate plaits.
The video itself, which initially comes off as being almost artlessly plainspoken but as complex and whorled as a hand-woven tapestry, is interwoven with the grace and discipline of those occupations and the creativity they convey.
The women belong to a rural, conservative religious group that has avoided modernity. One of the few indications that this movie, which Sarah Polley directed based on a novel by Miriam Toews, takes place anywhere close to the present is a pickup truck driven by an outsider blaring the Monkees’ “Daydream Believer.”
The events depicted in Toews’ book occurred at a Mennonite colony in Bolivia between 2005 and 2009, although the movie does not mention the site or the year.
The universality of the story’s themes and the women’s limited knowledge of the outside world are both reflected in this ambiguity. They haven’t been taught to read or write, even though many can recite the Bible off-hand.
Their educations were limited, but they had significant wisdom accumulated through agriculture and homework, raising children, prayer, and intuition.
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Or at least enough to encourage the development of a solid and knowledgeable collective political consciousness. The film’s subject, a source of suspense, emotion, and inspiration, is how they come to a clear awareness of their enslavement and potential liberation.
The women discuss what some of the colony’s men have done to them. They all are aware that many of their husbands, brothers, relatives, and neighbors have been slipping into the bedrooms of women and girls at night, armed with a spray designed to tranquilize livestock and rape their unconscious victims.
Or perhaps it’s not exactly that: A few memories of some of the assaults’ tragic aftermaths are enough to portray their anguish. The question of what to do now that the colony’s elders have acknowledged the issue and the secular authorities have become involved.
A group of ladies gathers in a hayloft to discuss a plan of action while most men are away, freeing the alleged offenders from jail on bail. The community’s women had already cast their votes in a referendum that gave them three options: stay and fight; leave; or do nothing and forgive, forget, and hope for the best. They start by debating the relative virtues of exit and voice after the first option has been decisively rejected.
Although many players prefer exit, “Women Talking” is essentially voice, a weaving of agents in various combinations of harmony and disharmony, as its title suggests. Ona (Rooney Mara), who is expecting, is the most collected and measured but, in some ways, the most passionate and principled.
Two mothers with young children, Salome (Claire Foy) and Marche (Jessie Buckley), present antiphonal chords of rage. Both have experienced male assault, yet they frequently vent their wrath on one another.
Though the younger generation, boisterously represented by Liv McNeil, Michelle McLeod, and Kate Hallett, provides the vital spark of mischief, two older ladies, Greta (Sheila McCarthy) and Agata (Judith Ivey), offer sympathy, perspective, and occasionally granny jokes.
Additionally, a man who works in the barn is responsible for recording the meeting’s minutes. Ben Whishaw portrays August with the necessary amount of empathy.
August serves as a reminder that while not all men are monsters to women, every male is involved in the systems of power that allow the horror, even though Polley replaced him with a lady whose identity might be a spoiler.
But the men aren’t the focus of the film. They are facts implied in the women’s remarks and silences, a simple blank to fill in. When the significant characters are separated from their husbands, dads, brothers, and sons, they feel a familiar comfort and a new freedom. Behind the curtain of their clearly defined, accepted positions, their personalities emerge.
Who Is The Cast of Women Talking?
- Rooney Mara as Ona
- Claire Foy as Salome
- Jessie Buckley as Marche
- Judith Ivey as Agata
- Ben Whishaw as August Epp
- Frances McDormand as Scarface Janz
- Sheila McCarthy as Greta
- Michelle McLeod as Mejal
- Kate Hallett as Autje
- Liv McNeil as Nietje
- Emily Mitchell as Miep
- Kira Guloien as Anna
- Shayla Brown as Helena
- August Winter as Melvin
What Is Its Price?
It had a minimal theatrical run; throughout the first weekend, it made $40,530 from 8 theaters, making it the poorest platform debut of the year. Christmas being so close, Winter Storm Elliott’s effects being felt across the country, and the general public’s declining enthusiasm for prestige movies were all highlighted by Deadline as significant factors.