Women Talking is a dramatic film written by Sara Poli. She based her screenplay on the 2018 novel of the same name by Miriam Tyus, inspired by true events that took place in the isolated Mennonite colony of Manitoba in Bolivia. The film premiered at the Telluride festival on September 2 of last year, and was released for wider distribution on January 27 through United Artists Releasing. It was nominated for an Oscar in the categories of best film and best adapted screenplay.
At the very beginning of the film, through the narration, we learn that a group of men in an isolated religious community drugged women and girls with animal tranquilizers and raped them. While leaders of the religious group dismiss the accusations as fantasy or the work of some demonic presence, one of the attackers was recently caught and named his accomplices. After one of Salome’s wives (Clever Times) pounced on the suspect, the women were given an ultimatum – they have two days to decide whether they will forgive their attackers or leave the community.
After the vote, forgiveness is out of the question, and the options of whether to fight the men or leave the community receive about the same number of votes. The final decision will be made by members of three families, among whom are angry Saloma, caring Una (Runi Mara) who became pregnant after one of the attacks and resented Mariš (Jesse Buckley). Since the patriarchal leadership refuses education to women, the school teacher Ogast (Ben Viso) voluntarily takes minutes of the meeting. One thing is for sure about this movie, and that is that its title is completely accurate.
The girl who serves as the narrator both foreshadows the horrors that have been happening for an unspecified number of years and suggests that the story of the victims will result in at least some promising ending. Women Talking almost exclusively follows the extended meeting of the women in the attic of the barn and the author places us right in the middle of this debate. The film presents a discussion and argument about society, religion, forgiveness, revenge, the nature of men and women. Above all of this is the debate over whether these women will stay and fight for control over their collective destiny, or head out into the unknown world to find a new destiny for themselves.
No problem, this kind of idea is admirable and full of promise, especially considering the top-notch cast the author has assembled for this cinematic one-hundred-minute exercise in thoughtful conversation. The main problem is that the film for the most part does not function as a drama, but rather as a way to openly explore certain ideas.
The film has dramatic elements when these characters come to a major disagreement about one or another topic that could have a very real impact on their future and the future of others. In other situations, there isn’t much drama because so much of this conversation becomes circular and because so many attempts at tension feel a little inauthentic. It doesn’t help that the stakes on both ends of the meeting (what happened before and what will happen after) aren’t established well enough to make the long discussion seem as meaningful to us neutral observers as it does to these characters.
The whole point of the film is to listen to these women debating what to do, whether a certain course of action is in line with their religious beliefs, and who is really to blame for the crimes committed against them and others. Much of this is thought through, especially when Una suggests that in some ways the attackers are also victims of this oppressive system. However, the script uses opportunities for characters to repeat things that have already been said before and the conversations soon become repetitive. The script does not have any deep philosophical, sociological or theological questions to leave an impression of reality, but the film is certainly more like a theater play than a screen adaptation of real people’s conversations.
Regardless, the film is worth seeing because of the excellent performances by the cast who create a distinct and diverse collection of personalities and mindsets that help compensate when the script gets stuck in its own loop. I emphasize that the debates and discussions that take place here occasionally extend to the world beyond the borders of this community, but the story boils down to the concerns and dangers of this specific place and these specific people – that limited scope of the story hinders a large part of the dramatic and intellectual potential of the film.
Women Talking combines an impressive ensemble cast and a terrifying real-life story about women forced to reconcile brutal reality with their faith, but falters due to a lack of authenticity and dramatic energy.
my final rating: 7/10
Source: The Filmske Recenzije by filmskerecenzije.com.
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