#TIFF22: “WOMEN TALKING”
By Amanda Gilmore
This exquisite Adaptation of Miriam Toews’ acclaimed novel follows a group of women in a Mennonite colony who have experienced generations of epidemic abuse. The men, who hold the power, have told the women that the sexual assaults inflicted on them were the cause of ghosts or their own imagination. But when one of the men is caught and names others as culprits, a group of women are tasked with deciding if they should stay and fight or leave.
Writer-Director Sarah Polley is back with this simple yet complex film. It’s straightforward in its narrative, however, it examines the intricate meanings of justice, forgiveness, and faith. Further, it shows women reconstructing the future they want for themselves and their children. Each character has a different perspective, which helps examine the many themes in Women Talking.
Salome (Claire Foy) seeks retribution for the evils inflicted on her and her fellow women. Level-headed and soon-to-be-mother Ona (Rooney Mara) hopes to leave the colony and pave a new life for her unborn child. Mariche (Jessie Buckley) can’t agree to stay or leave and bluntly questions each opinion that is given. The trios’ mothers, Greta (Sheila McCarthy) and Agata (Judith Ivey) symbolize the generations of silence that have led to the perpetuated abuse. An emotional knockout scene happens when Greta apologizes to Mariche for her part in the abuse.
The entire female Ensemble deliver top-tier performances that make it hard to pick a standout. Yet, Buckley is given the biggest character arch and gives an indelible performance as a woman grappling with the painful truth. Among these women is school teacher August (Ben Whishaw), who takes the minutes of the meeting. He symbolizes the men who support and care for women. Whishaw gives a heartbreaking performance.
In lesser hands, Women Talking would come off as stagey. However, Polley, along with Editors Christopher Donaldson and Rosyln Kalloomakes, make it cinematic. Polley uses imagery to convey the subtext and further the themes. Such as repetitive visuals of the women’s hair being braided. This shows them being tied in their experiences and banding together in their decision for a future. Additionally, the exceptional Direction from Polley effectively shows the violence while never being exploitative. She achieves this by showing the aftermath rather than the actual abuse.
Women Talking is one of the best films of the year.
Women Talking screens as follows at TIFF ’22:
Tue, Sep 13 IN-PERSON at Visa Screening Room at the Princess of Wales Theatre at 6:30 pm
Wed, Sep 14 IN-PERSON at Visa Screening Room at the Princess of Wales Theatre at 2:30 pm
Fri, Sep 16 IN-PERSON at Royal Alexandra Theatre at 8:30 pm
Sat, Sep 17 IN-PERSON at TIFF Bell Lightbox at 6:00 pm