Women Talking (2022)

It will surely spark more conversations on women’s agency in dealing with sexual assault and toxic masculinity, but Polley’s work is visually uninteresting, and the performances might sometimes feel maudlin. 

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Review #2,580

Dir. Sarah Polley
2022 | USA | Drama | 104 min | 2.76:1 | English
NC16 (passed clean) for mature thematic content including sexual assault, bloody images, and some strong language

Cast: Rooney Mara, Claire Foy, Jessie Buckley, Ben Whishaw, Frances McDormand
Plot: A group of women in an isolated religious colony struggle to reconcile their faith with a string of sexual assaults committed by the colony’s men.
Awards: Won 1 Oscar – Best Adapted Screenplay; Nom. for 1 Oscar – Best Picture; Nom. for Audience Choice Award (Toronto)
Distributor: United International Pictures

Accessibility Index
Subject Matter: Moderate – Female Agency; Sexual Assault; Religious Faith
Narrative Style: Straightforward
Pace: Slightly Slow
Audience Type: Slightly Mainstream

Viewed: The Projector Golden Mile
Spoilers: No

Women Talking is an important work that addresses issues of sexual assault and toxic masculinity. More critically, it poses the question of how women could deal with it strictly on their own terms.  However, as much as I wanted to like it, I wasn’t really enamoured by the filmmaking, which I found generally dull and underwhelming. 

It’s a pity because it is a thought-provoking work, performed by a strong ensemble cast which includes Rooney Mara, Claire Foy, Jessie Buckley and Ben Whishaw.  Having said that, the earnest performances might sometimes feel maudlin, with Whishaw’s character particularly being too self-pitiful. 

Largely conversational as its title would have hinted, Women Talking is based on true events in Bolivia that happened about a decade ago, adapted from a book of the same name. 

“Hope for the unknown is good. It is better than hatred of the familiar.”

It brings up a plethora of talking points, framed as ‘push’ or ‘pull’ factors as the abused women draw up the pros and cons of whether to leave the colony or stay and fight.  The other option is to do nothing, which is not exactly a viable option in this day and age. 

Many of these issues are also set against the iron grip of religion that these women find difficult to reconcile, for instance, in the subject of forgiveness towards the perpetrators. 

Unfortunately, Polley’s work is visually uninteresting—the aspect ratio is strange and the cinematography is murky, an example of how not to light night scenes. 

Some might argue that its stage-like treatment aligns more with a no-frills look so that the words carry more weight and meaning, but if that’s the case, it may be a better idea to watch a panel discussion with the same exact script. 

Grade: B-



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