Oscar-nominated writer-director Sarah Polley’s fearless adaptation of Miriam Toews’ acclaimed novel grants us access to a tight-knit, cloistered religious colony in which women struggle to recover from an epidemic of abuse. Featuring riveting, emotionally complex performances from a stunning ensemble that includes Oscar nominees Rooney Mara and Jessie Buckley and Oscar winner Frances McDormand, WOMEN TALKING is a drama of harrowing revelations, fraught alliances, and the search for grace.
Reeling from multiple counts of sexual abuse, newly uncovered within their Mennonite colony, a group of women gather in a hayloft to discuss how to respond. While the men are away, the women narrow their options down to three: do nothing, stay and fight, or leave. Some fear that any act of defiance will jeopardize their entry into heaven, while others believe they cannot survive without husbands and sons. Some are willing to take any measures to escape the terror of their domestic lives and insist that “the truth is stronger than the rules.”
With her first feature in almost a decade, Polley showcases her unmatched skills as both a screenwriter and a director. The film is at once ferocious in its critique of patriarchal oppression — a critique that clearly extends to our broader, secular culture — while respectful of the beliefs and traditions in which its characters were raised. Though it is suffused with the pain of trauma, a stubborn sense of wonder and quiet joy in community permeate the film. WOMEN TALKING ushers us through a journey of rage, grief, wisdom, and hope through to a triumphant, most gratifying conclusion. (Synopsis from the Toronto International Film Festival 2022 Program Guide)
“At the core of Polley’s smart, compassionate film is the belief that in movies and in life, words can be action — and for people who have been denied a voice, they can be revolutionary.” —Sheri Linden, Hollywood Reporter “...There's a deep vein of humor and humanity that Polley and her actors mine from the text, and something quietly mesmerizing in their world-building.” —Leah Greenblatt, Entertainment Weekly “WOMEN TALKING gathers extraordinary emotional force, and also something more: genuine spiritual weight. Polley has made an angry, compassionate parable of Christian belief and female empowerment — two forces, often thought to be irreconcilable, that are shown here to be intrinsically bound.” —Justin Chang, Los Angeles Times “One of the most mesmerizing and haunting films of the year, also featuring one of the best screenplays and one of the best casts in 2022…. After a decade away from film directing, Polley has returned with what might be her finest film so far, a striking and potent look at women's rights, the stories we tell to avoid the truth, and the difficulties in making the right choice.” —Ross Bonaime, Collider