REVIEW – “Women Talking”

Sarah Polley is an incredible filmmaker who has a very natural gift for lingering on a single emotion or conversation and expanding it into a feature-length film. While this may seem like an easy thing to do, I’m always impressed by Polley’s ability to translate emotion into thematics. This strength is perfectly exemplified within Women Talking, a film based off the 2018 novel of the same name, and follows a group of women in an isolated religious colony who struggle to reconcile their faith with a large string of sexual assaults comitted by the colony’s men. 

For a film that primarily takes place in a singular location, with one set of characters, and is primarily focused on purely conversations and debates – Women Talking is one of the most harrowing and engrossing films I’ve seen this year. Luckily for a film with such a reliance on it, the film is backed up by an absolutely incredible screenplay that knows when to give each character the spotlight and how to balance all of these women and their perspectives near perfectly. It also all feels so natirualitc, like you as an audience member are a fly on the wall of a conversation happening in real-time.

Polley’s direction here is nothing short of outstanding; she makes every moment matter and feel so genuinely impactful and important; there’s simply not a wasted moment in the entire film. She has a perfect lense for balancing urgency with empathy, and doesn’t let one compromise the other. A lot of this is also supported by the absolutely phenomenal performances across the board, but a few in particular are that of Rooney Mara and Claire Foy who are pretty equal in terms of who gives the best performance in the entire film, both are equally commanding and heartbreaking. Jessie Buckley takes a bit of a backseat role for a majority of the film, but comes to play big time towards the end and delivers a quietly stunning performance. Ben Whishaw also perhaps gives the best performance of his entire career, with a stunning “try not to cry”-level monologue.

If there’s any place to nitpick the movie, it’s within the color-grading that the film has been largely criticzed for. While I do think the film does justify it to an extent within the context of what’s happening within the subject matter and the location of where the conversation is taking place, I can’t help but feel like the film would be better without the murky look and have more natural colors. However, this feels like such a small gripe in the grand scheme of things, as Women Talking is still an undeniably powerful experience with one of the best screenplays of the entire year. This is truly captivating in every sense of the word, and feels so deeply important from start to finish. A triumph.


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