Women Talking (2022)

‘Women Talking’ has much to say about abuse

For centuries, men have used religion as a means of wielding control over women. In essence, “keeping them in their place” as servants to administer to their needs for sustenance, sexual fulfillment and progeny. Lodge a single protest and consider your ticket to heaven null and void.

No more, shouts Sarah Polley’s devastating adaptation of Miriam Toews’ novel about a group of fierce Mennonite women rising up to say, “enough.” The scene is an insular community in the boondocks of modern-day America, where years of molestation and rape have caught the attention of police, who’ve arrested a number of the participants. And while the men remaining head into town to post bail, the most vocal female members of the sect gather in a hayloft to decide the fate of their attackers, and that of the dozens of their fellow abused women and girls.

The question before them: Should we stay and fight, or should we go? The ensuing debate is riveting, as Polley dexterously presents what could have become a stagey airing of grievances into an affecting chronicle of emancipation.

The circle, artfully comprised of titans like Jessie Buckley, Rooney Mara, Claire Foy and Judith Ivey, ushers you through a diversity of emotions, as the long-term effects of rapes, beatings and humiliations erupt like a volcano. What follows literally moves you to tears, especially the sweet, ill-fated romance brewing between Rooney’s Ona and Ben Whishaw’s August, the excommunicated schoolteacher recruited to take minutes of the meeting, as no girl or woman has been allowed to learn to read or write.

As a director, Polley assuredly extracts perfection from every member of her marvelous ensemble. But it’s her writing that astonishes most, mastering simple, but heartfelt, dialogue that compellingly captures the fury and frustration aimed not just at the oppressors, but at a God who has long forsaken the battered victims. Amen!

Movie review

Women Talking

Rated: PG-13 for mature thematic content, bloody images, sexual assault and some strong language

Cast: Jessie Buckley, Rooney Mara, Claire Foy, Frances McDormand, Ben Winshaw and Judith Ivey

Director: Sarah Polley

Writer: Sarah Polley

Runtime: 104 minutes

Grade: A-

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