This film about a bunch of ladies questioning faith is like a melancholy version of 12 Angry Men (1957). With five female roles it could have easily been titled 5 Angry Ladies instead of Women Talking. The movieis all about women being honest and accepting reality. From my perspective, its dramatic irony is a bit exaggerated. Women Talking explores a variety of problems, but in the end, it just feels like a long debate amongst the women involved.
The film takes place in 2010. The setting is in a deserted religious community. The ladies are Ona (played by Rooney Mara), Salome (played by Claire Foy), Mariche (played by Jessie Buckley), Scarface Janz (played by Frances McDormand), and Agata (played by Judith Ivey). Women Talking challenges the ladies to come to terms with reconciliation with their experiences of sexually assault. Some recall being assaulted, some question if they were assaulted, and some question their faith. As the ladies discuss their encounters, the film covers a complex landscape of right and wrong with religion as a backdrop.
I found myself suffering some boredom during Women Talking, but it subsided as the conversations became more deliberate. The film displays a willingness for truths to be revealed as the intensity builds. The revelations come to a halt, however, because of the mixed conversations and unwanted comparisons between the ladies.
What enthralled me the most with Women Talking is the in-depth dialogue. The film’s writing is emotionally eloquent. Writer and director Sarah Polley exhibits seriousness delivering this performance. Women Talking is a worthy film given the voices it gives to its characters played by amazing talent. In the film Mara’s character asks, “Why does love—the absence of love, the end of love, the need for love—result in so much violence?” That question is direct and carries a strong narrative throughout Women Talking. The topic of sexual assault is never an easy one and the subject matter may be hard for some to take in. My appreciation for Women Talking stems from the opportunity to have the ladies be heard. The story is about them opening about their experiences while also using reconciliation as their savior. The film portrays the many wonders of personal evolution.
Women Talking requires attention at first. The initial approach is quite dry, but eventually it begins to captivate. Women Talking is pervasive in references to cultural and religious factors. When the more difficult topics came into the discussions, I began to find myself more hooked on the film and asked myself a lot of questions. Why are the ladies admitting to what they are guilty about? Why are they hiding the fact that some were assaulted? Do they truly feel their life is at risk due to religious beliefs? The conversations that were unsettling made my head spin, but those topics that are hardest to hear in Women Talking make the movie. Three stars.