Set in 2010, a group of women living in an isolated religious community are now making a choice. The women have been continually dealing with sexual abuse and violence towards them, and in the past, they have been told that they are simply dreaming or perhaps coming under attack from the Devil. However, when a man is caught in the act leaving him to flee into the darkness, the women decide that now is the time to choose for the sake of themselves and the next generation.
The women of the community come together and take a vote- do they do nothing, stay and fight, or leave? After the voting process is completed, further discussions are still needed. A small group of women now meet in a barn and discuss the upcoming significant life-changing decision. Should all women in the community stay, or should they leave? Making this choice is not that easy. The women will now consider all the pros and cons and tackle various topics such as forgiveness and their religious beliefs. Something else that needs to be considered is the future of everyone involved.
While the film isn’t based on actual events, it is based on Miriam Toews’ 2018 novel, which has the same name and is based on a true story of serial rapes. While the themes are not the same, Women Talking did remind me a lot of the classic film 12 Angry Men. The discussion topic is heavy, with multiple characters expressing their hearts and opinions. However, when it comes to Women Talking, the issues and themes are naturally far more profound and are heartfelt, gripping and touching for the entire duration.
Women Talking has plenty of positives. Firstly, the dialogue here is tight and feels completely natural and authentic. Performances are also tremendous, and like the dialogue, every actor on-screen is compelling as a character. This applies to both the leading and side performances throughout the film.
Visually, Women Talking is amazing, and it’s evident early on in the film that colour grading has been a prime focus, giving the film a soft touch that felt fitting given the topic on hand. Director Sarah Polley has achieved beautiful work. I admired everything on-screen, even down to the camera movements, such as the perfectly executed panning. Polley has captured great moments of hard-hitting drama and successfully builds tension wonderfully. There were plenty of moments where I wondered if the women would get caught and if they would come to a positive conclusion.
Pacing for the vast majority is outstanding, and audiences cannot help but feel invested in this story and the core discussion. There are also creative backstories for various characters thanks to small glimpses of the past. These backstories are profoundly shocking and heavily impacting. The film ends strongly, even though it does include what feels like a double climax.
Overall, this is a well-made drama film. It’s flawless in many areas, including its stunning dialogue, beautiful visuals and excellent directing from Sarah Polley. Performances are gripping, solid and unforgettable. The same can be said about the story as we witness the women discussing and questioning many areas surrounding their safety, the next generations’ future and considering what is right according to their beliefs and faith. Women Talking is a must-watch, and it is no surprise that the film is a worthy contender for best film at the upcoming Oscars. Women Talking (2023) is Available in Australian Cinemas from February 16th.