Sarah Polley’s heartbreakingly beautiful WOMEN TALKING takes us through a day of women deciding whether to “do nothing, stay and fight, or leave.”
The women of an isolated Mennonite colony discover that men have been drugging and raping them over and over. After the attackers are arrested and sent to the city, the men of the colony travel there to get them released on bail and tell the women that they must forgive these men, or they will never be able to enter the kingdom of heaven.
Faced with an impossible set of choices, the women hold a meeting to decide what to do. Because as women they have never been taught to read or write, they ask the local schoolteacher, August (Ben Whishaw) to take notes in order to have a record of their discussion.
Salome (Claire Foy)’s rage demands they fight back and get bloody justice; Mariche (Jessie Buckley) cannot conceive of doing anything by staying; and Ona (Rooney Mara), left pregnant by the last assault, thinks leaving may be the only safe answer. Elders Agata (Judith Ivey) and Greta (Sheila McCarthy) provide support and advice; Majel (Michelle McLeod) tends to her anxiety by smoking and cracking jokes – and teen girls Neitje (Liv McNeil) – who is also the narrator of this story – & Clara (Vivien Endicott Douglas) cling together in laughter and tears.
There are two characters I wish I had seen more of: the sage and stoic Scarface Janz (Frances McDormand) and the brave and impactful Melvin (August Winter) – but I get it, the meat of the story is within the walls of the barn loft, and there’s never enough time in a movie to spend on everyone’s stories. And without spoiling anything, I’ll just say that I was incredibly happy with how one of the relationships resolves.
Polley captures every nuance on her actors’ faces, letting the performances wash over you within the beauty of each frame. It’s easy to see how WOMEN TALKING got Oscar noms for Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay, but it’s a goddamn crime that Sarah didn’t get a Best Director nomination. I MEAN COME ON
I’ve still got 3 films to tick through on the Best Feature list, but of the ones I’ve seen, this is my top pick for the winner.
Anyway! You can now buy it on Blu-ray and DVD. And the Blu-ray transfer is of course flawless, but no commentary or special features makes me sad.