Time: 104 Minutes
Age Rating: Sexual violence & domestic abuse
Rooney Mara as Ona
Claire Foy as Salome
Jessie Buckley as Mariche
Judith Ivey as Agata
Ben Whishaw as August
Frances McDormand as Scarface Janz
Director: Sarah Polley
The women of an isolated religious colony reveal a shocking secret about the colony’s men. For years, the men have occasionally drugged the women and then raped them. The truth comes out and the women talk about their new situation.
I had been waiting to watch Women Talking for some time. Even before the highly positive reactions, I was already sold on the cast, including Rooney Mara, Jessie Buckley, Claire Foy, Frances McDormand and Ben Whishaw. I finally got the chance to see it, and it was incredible.
The premise of the movie is simple, following constant attacks and rapes from men, the women of an isolated colony have to make a difficult decision about whether to stay and fight, or to leave. Women Talking is based on a book, which is itself based on true events. Still, with the emphasis on its characters debating and discussing what they are going to do, it could’ve fallen into being too stagey, especially with how self-contained much of the movie is. There is a lot of dialogue and conversations, and its riveting to watch these characters talk. While much of the important scenes focus on the main characters in a barn talking, the scope of the movie is wider than just that. The film touches on some incredibly heavy topics like rape and sexual assault, and I thought the movie handled those well. It can at times be on the nose with its messages, but it is layered, has quite a lot of depth, and is handled with a lot of empathy, sensitivity and nuance. It can be a depressing movie to watch, still there is some hope at the end in spite of the bleakness. There are little moments of humour which fit in seamlessly, and there’s even a romantic subplot between Ben Whishaw and Rooney Mara which doesn’t feel out of place. I do have some minor issues, though they aren’t enough to take away from the movie too much. You do somewhat need to suspend your disbelief with some of the dialogue and writing. The women speak very well considering that as stated in the film, they weren’t allowed to learn to read or write. Also, there is quite literally a “not all men” moment where it cuts to Ben Whishaw’s character, which the film really could’ve done without.
One of the film’s biggest strengths is the excellent performances. This has one of the best ensemble casts from 2022, and they convey their characters and emotions so well. Rooney Mara, Jessie Buckley and Claire Foy are fantastic in the lead roles (with Buckley probably being the standout), and Michelle McLeod, Judith Ivey and Sheila McCarthy are equally as good. Frances McDormand is one of the biggest names in the movie, although has altogether 5 minutes of screentime max. One of the biggest surprises was Ben Whishaw, who plays the colony’s schoolteacher who’s recording the conversations, and is one of the only male characters in this movie. He’s great in his role too.
Sarah Polley directs this film very well. Despite it being mostly a movie focussing on conversations, Polley does a lot to make Women Talking not feel too limited in scope. It’s edited very well; we don’t see much on-screen violence, and the brief flashes of it convey enough without lingering for too long. Hildur Guðnadóttir’s score is great, it is somewhat subtle and quiet but heightens the movie even further and adds so much to the emotions. Easily one of the best film scores from 2022. The cinematography is also stunning and captures everything perfectly. That being said, one of the biggest criticisms I heard before even going into the film was the desaturated colour grading. I do wonder if changes had been made before the movie’s release, because I thought that the shots from the trailer looked murkier than what I just watched. In any case, the colour grading didn’t bother me too much, and it did well to get me immersed and set the mood of the movie. However, it might’ve worked even better if they went all the way and set it in black and white.
Women Talking is a riveting, sensitive, and powerful movie, incredibly written and directed, and with outstanding powerhouse performances from the great ensemble cast, especially from Rooney Mara, Jessie Buckley, Claire Foy, and Ben Wishaw. One of the best movies from 2022.