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The Hollywood Insider Women Talking Review

Photo: ‘Women Talking’ 

The headline “women-directed” drama migth be jarring, but absolutely necessary. 

Sarah Polley has been a well-known actress that has made her mark in the acting world. She has been a child actress by appearing in the show ‘Road to Avonlea.’ As she got older, she was recognized in movies such as ‘Dawn of the Dead’ (2004). Around 2006, she released her debut film ‘Away From Her.’ Around 2011, she made her second film ‘Take This Waltz,’ which features Michelle Williams as a suburban housewife who is bored from her marriage to a loving but neglecting husband (played by Seth Rogen). A year later, she made her first documentary Stories We Tell,’ which focuses on the enigmatic tales of her enigmatic mother which have been told by her friends and family members that knew her the best.  Ten years later, she returned to the director’s chair by making ‘Women Talking,’ based on the Miriam Toews novel which focuses on the eight women from an isolated Mennonite colony that are having a hard time accepting their reality when they discover that men from their community have been drugging and raping the women at night for many years. 

‘Women Talking’ – Behind the Scenes

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‘Women Talking’ – The Novel’s Premise

Even though the film is based on Miriam Toews’ bestselling novel, it is also based on the real-life events that happened at the Manitoba Colony in Bolivia. In a secluded Mennonite community in Bolivia, around 150 females (ages ranging from 5 to 65) were drugged and later raped by men between the years 2005 and 2009. The females are victimized since they would wake up without the knowledge of what had occurred to them during their unconscious state. This kind of horrifying news brought the attention of the men of the Mennonite community. So the males took it upon themselves to follow one of the men at night time. They were successful in catching the man in the act, therefore taking the assaulter to Bolivian law enforcement.

This led to a trial in which the victimized women had attended to testify and resulted in eight men being sentenced to 25 years in prison for taking advantage of the victimized females. The author Miriam Toews happened to grow up in a small Mennonite community in Manitoba. She wrote the book because she believed that she could have been one of those women who were victimized. Hence, the book was written with the fictional intentions of creating female characters and their choices of fighting the injustices that were happening to them.  Despite the fact that the book is called ‘Women Talking,’ it was written as if a man (who isn’t one of the assaulters) was writing his observations of the women’s conversations and debates about the injustices that were happening. 

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‘Women Talking’ – Full Commentary

Plot and Premise

Sarah Polley returns to the big screen to tell the tale of the women who created secret meetings in a barn to talk about the fates of the women who were drugged and sexually assaulted and stated their three options for their predicament: 1. Do nothing. 2. Stay and fight. 3. Leave the community. The women would debate the subject for almost two days. It’s very clear that some women would feel powerless about it while others would not let the injustice continue. 

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Cast and Merits

Ben Whishaw plays August, who writes down about the women’s stories on his periphery so he can help the women since they do not know how to read and write.  Claire Foy does a wonderful job playing Salome, a woman who couldn’t stand the assault that was happening. Her rage is demonstrated by attacking one of the men with a pitchfork. Jessie Buckley plays Mariache, a woman who had suffered the mistreatment of her husband. Frances McDormand appears a few times as “Scarace Janz,” who is one of the women who aren’t part of the debate because she chose to stay. Rooney Mara plays Ona, who becomes pregnant as a result of the rape that happened to her. All these women play their significant roles of having different takes on sexual assaults and must decide what kind of action they will do about it. 

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‘Women Talking’ – In-Depth Scoop

Polley does a wonderful job directing the female actresses. The way they debate about the sexual assaults that were happening in their community will remind other film buffs of Sidney Lumet’s ‘12 Angry Men.’ Sarah Polley and Miriam Toews are the ones that wrote the film’s screenplay. Perhaps their intentions with the film were to have their own updated female version of the film where women get together and make other females think about the morality of the situation that they find themselves in. The color grading of the film is very dark. In an interview, director Sarah Polley talked about how she made the decision to have her fellow filmmakers experiment with the saturation levels in order to create a feeling of a “world that had faded in the past” in order to give the film almost a black-and-white tone. Though she never fully caves into the black-and-white. To my interpretation, she leaves the color with the intention of hoping that some of the women have to have these men on trial and pay for their crimes. The cinematography is awe-inspiring. When the film is not shot in a barn full of women talking, they show amazing shots of the community of the small town as if the film was directed by Terrence Malick

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In Conclusion

The film does a good job of being the modern-day female version of ‘12 Angry Men.’ Despite the fact that the film mostly takes place in a barn, the story doesn’t feel humdrum at all. Sarah Polley does a good job of making us care for the female characters since they all make their fellow females and viewers of the films question the morality and the evil that men do. How does a victim handle the situation that they found themselves in? Do they leave town and let them get away with it? Do they stay in the community and forgive their rapists? Will there be future generations of male rapists? The movie’s awareness of women’s injustices is a timeless issue that is still happening in modern times.

Directed by Sarah Polley

Written by Sarah Polley and Miriam Toews

Starring Rooney Mara, Claire Foy, and Jessie Buckley.

By Marco Castaneda

Click here to read The Hollywood Insider’s CEO Pritan Ambroase’s love letter to Cinema, TV and Media. An excerpt from the love letter: The Hollywood Insider’s CEO/editor-in-chief Pritan Ambroase affirms, We have the space and time for all your stories, no matter who/what/where you are. Media/Cinema/TV have a responsibility to better the world and The Hollywood Insider will continue to do so. Talent, diversity and authenticity matter in Cinema/TV, media and storytelling. In fact, I reckon that we should announce “talent-diversity-authenticity-storytelling-Cinema-Oscars-Academy-Awards” as synonyms of each other. We show respect to talent and stories regardless of their skin color, race, gender, sexuality, religion, nationality, etc., thus allowing authenticity into this system just by something as simple as accepting and showing respect to the human species’ factual diversity. We become greater just by respecting and appreciating talent in all its shapes, sizes, and forms. Award winners, which includes nominees, must be chosen on the greatness of their talent ALONE.

I am sure I am speaking for a multitude of Cinema lovers all over the world when I speak of the following sentiments that this medium of art has blessed me with. Cinema taught me about our world, at times in English and at times through the beautiful one-inch bar of subtitles. I learned from the stories in the global movies that we are all alike across all borders. Remember that one of the best symbols of many great civilizations and their prosperity has been the art they have left behind. This art can be in the form of paintings, sculptures, architecture, writings, inventions, etc. For our modern society, Cinema happens to be one of them. Cinema is more than just a form of entertainment, it is an integral part of society. I love the world uniting, be it for Cinema, TV, media, art, fashion, sport, etc. Please keep this going full speed.

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Author

  • Marco Castaneda is a graduate student at the California State University, Los Angeles. He is currently pursuing his Master of Fine Arts Degree in Television, Film, and Theatre, and expects to graduate in the Spring of 2023. He has a strong passion for creating stories as well as reading them. Marco believes that art helps people to give a unique perspective of our lives and the lives of others. He is also currently a substitute teacher for K-12th grade and hopes to teach students how to use their creativity through all aspects and subjects of their lives and not to be afraid of using their talents.

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