“Women Talking”


Metacritic (5/10), Letterboxd (2.5/5), Imdb.com (5/10)

I’ll admit up front that this is likely going to be an unpopular review and a decidedly minority opinion, but I have to be honest about my feelings. Writer-director Sarah Polley’s adaptation of Miriam Toews’s novel of the same name may come from a place of noble intent, and it may feature one of the year’s finest acting ensembles, but its overall treatment is a major misfire. This fact-based story about a group of women from a conservative religious colony who meet to discuss how to respond to a series of sexual assaults in their community unfolds in a circular, wooden, stagey fashion that plays more like a university discussion group than a work of dramatic cinema. The ideas raised in these dialogues – ranging from activism to passivity to intergender relations to forgiveness to faith and salvation – are certainly lofty topics for consideration and deliberation, especially in terms of how they might be addressed in the forging of a new and better world. But their handling here is so forced and inauthentic that the entire exercise lacks believability and does little to foster a sense of concerted viewer engagement, a project that might have been more accurately titled “Women Endlessly Talking Things to Death.” And, as the narrative drones on and on, it becomes tediously dull, with one of the characters herself astutely observing that “This is very, very boring” (well said, if a bit ironic). What’s more, a number of incidents and themes seemingly arise out of nowhere and aren’t always fully resolved, making one wonder why they were included in the first place. Even more disappointing is the fact that the film features so many fine portrayals by performers who are given such stilted material to work with, including Jessie Buckley, Claire Foy, Judith Ivey, Sheila McCarthy, Ben Whishaw and Frances McDormand (whose appearance is more of an afterthought than anything else). Director Polley has certainly made a name for herself with such excellent past works as “Away From Her” (2006), but her reach has certainly exceeded her grasp with this undertaking, one that has much to say but ultimately says so little.