Starring: Rooney Mara, Claire Foy, Jessie Buckley, Ben Whishaw, Frances McDormand, Judith Ivey, Sheila McCarthy, Michelle McLeod, Emily Mitchell, Liv McNeil, Kate Hallett, August Winter, Kira Guloien, and Shayla Brown
Director: Sarah Polley
Sarah Polley’s Women Talking likely won’t blow anyone’s mind, but apart from a needlessly desaturated color palette, it’s one of the year’s best films. Adapted from the novel of the same name, the film’s script is its strongest element, but not its only strength. From Jessie Buckley’s steely resolve to Claire Foy’s righteous fury, every performer is in top-notch form, and the conversations they have hit particularly close to home if you grew up in a religious environment. It’s far more cinematic than one might expect, and the score by Hildur Guðnadóttir makes the composer two for two this year.
Women Talking is one of the year’s most powerful films. An excellent adaptation by Sarah Polley, as well as a masterclass in acting from virtually every member of the cast, this is just a top tier movie. Relying on the quality of the script and avoiding any needlessly complicated filmmaking, Polley’s simple visual approach ensures that all the focus is on the actors. A story about women choosing to break free from the bonds of an abusive patriarchal society, the underlying message that change needs to happen sooner rather than later is a brilliant beacon for any woman looking to improve their own life’s circumstances.
You can respect a film without overly liking it, and that’s about where I stand with Women Talking. The film, which plays out more like a Shakespearean play, feels incomplete, as if it were Act 1 of a larger story. Story wise, it leaves a lot to be desired. However, performance wise, there isn’t anything bad to say about this ensemble. Director Sarah Polley’s intentions are deliberate, and regardless of reception, she has reasoning behind every decision she makes, including the off-putting and drab colour palette. It may work for some, but it didn’t work for me.
Women Talking is absolutely breathtaking, with writer/director Sarah Polley on her absolute A-game. As a director, she portrays the sheer vulnerability and terror of the plot seemingly effortlessly, but the script is incredible too, being tragic but also snappy and, weirdly enough, kind of funny at times. And the ensemble? Holy crap! Everybody is fantastic. That said, the film’s color palette is very bad. It seems nitpicky to criticize a movie's color grading, but it’s very distracting and just awful. Still, if the only flaw for a movie is the coloring, that’s a damn good sign.
This film was reviewed by Nick and Adriano as part of Bitesize Breakdown's coverage of the 2022 Toronto International Film Festival.