I wander into a mass of flowery perfume, rainwater and old cigarettes. My eyes rove from the puddles on the pathway to the angry post-storm twilight. I see everyone’s shoes soaked through, ankles fused with soggy leaves and mud, and hair matted to faces. Is this what womanhood looks like? I wonder. I am one in a cast of female characters, lined up to watch a movie about us, our struggles and our strengths. We pass around hushed whispers like secret notes as we find our seats in the theater. Laughter, complaints about the weather, excitement. We are women talking about Women Talking.
I was fortunate enough to attend an early screening and director Q&A for Sarah Polley’s upcoming feature film. Gut-wrenching, driven and self-contained, Women Talking is bound to pierce the heart of every viewer. The film is exactly as its title suggests: women talking. In an isolated religious colony, women have been drugged with cow tranquilizers and sexually assaulted in their sleep for an unknown, frightening amount of time. They’re made by the colony’s men to believe it is the result of ghosts, demons and most disturbingly, female imagination. The film attentively refrains from showing the actual assaults and instead focuses on the women’s bravery and singular determination to do what’s right by their gender.
Women Talking is adapted from Miriam Toews’ novel of the same name. Polley beautifully captures the most poignant moments of the book while constructing her own narrative, making the film as much her story as it is Toews’, and mine, and every woman’s. What is womanhood? The film is a conversation about power and oppression and whether women ought to overlook it, run from it, or fight it. The discourse faced by the colony’s women fits into the puzzle of our contemporary world. Toews and Polley pave the road for a feminist future, in which reformation, escape and forgiveness coexist.
Despite the somber and meandering pace of Women Talking, its dialogue is candid, sharp and demanding. The performances of Rooney Mara, Claire Foy, Jessie Buckley and the entire ensemble left me brimming with emotion. And I wasn’t the only one. By the film’s end, the crowd was gasping with sobs, stunned at the intensity and weight behind every line and moment. Even amid horrors, Polley leaves space for the light-hearted, simple joys of girlhood. Women Talking is an emotional whiplash in the best possible way.
The film is releasing across the US on December 2nd, 2022. I encourage everybody, female or otherwise, to give 104 minutes of their time to Polley’s passionate exploration of feminism and filmmaking. I promise — it’s worth the watch.
Join the choir of female chatter, cries and love. Join the women talking.