The real abhorrent facts behind Women Talking are based on 150 women and girls who were drugged and raped in a Bolivian Mennonite community between 2005-2009. Victims, ranging from ages 5-65, would wake up with blood and missing underwear. The crime was uncovered by community elders after they caught one man in the act and reported it to authorities. An ensuing trial led to the sentencing of 8 men to 25 years in prison.
Miriam Toews, a Canadian author, was deeply moved by the story of women in a Mennonite community in Manitoba who were raped. Her book, “Women Talking,” published in 2018, is a fictionalized response to their experiences. The book is told from the perspective of August, a former community member who has returned as a schoolteacher and is tasked with “taking the minutes” of a meeting between the women as they debate their options: doing nothing, staying and fighting, or leaving the community.
Films that rely heavily on dialogue can be challenging, but if the writing is strong and the acting is compelling, a talking-head movie can be just as cinematic as a visual spectacle.
The book and Sarah Polley’s film adaptation of it, feature the women’s debate as the main focus. The women are trying to find a way forward, but the path is not straightforward. They consider the spiritual consequences of leaving, the forgiveness of their attackers, and the future of the boy children. The film features a talented cast, including Jessie Buckley, Claire Foy, Judith Ivey, and Frances McDormand, among others. Polley trusts her actors and material, allowing the performances to shine. The dialogue-driven film is a thrill to watch as the characters discuss weighty moral and ethical subjects.
In the film, August is present but not the narrator, putting the “women talking” front and center. Despite the shift in point-of-view, some distance still remains as August is unable to fully capture the interior lives of the women. Nevertheless, the debates are captivating, as the characters argue with a purpose and make important decisions that will affect their futures.
Films that rely heavily on dialogue can be challenging, but if the writing is strong and the acting is compelling, a talking-head movie can be just as cinematic as a visual spectacle. The “Before” trilogy and Asghar Farhadi’s films are examples of dialogue-driven films that are thrilling to watch. “Women Talking” is no exception, as Polley’s trust in her actors and material allows the performances and dialogue to drive the story.
It is commendable how Sarah Polley was able to bring out the best in her cast and make their performances the driving force of the story. The film’s trust in the material and the actors is evident, and it is evident in the intensity and impact of the performances. The film’s barage of words is a testament to the quality of the dialogue and how engaging it is. The film’s structure, which is centered around a group of women discussing their options, is both thrilling and thought-provoking. It is a demonstration of democracy at work and shows how people can come together to hash things out and make important decisions. The film’s treatment of the subject matter is both serious and sensitive, and it does not shy away from addressing weighty moral and ethical subjects. The film’s exploration of these subjects is both timely and timeless and is sure to leave a lasting impact on its audience.