Since yesterday, my local theater has been exclusively showing films nominated for Best Picture at this year’s Academy Awards. Not wanting to pass up this opportunity, I will be going to the theaters four straight days to view those I’m interested in seeing. Today marked the second: Women Talking.
Yesterday was a film I knew nothing about. Today presented a film that told everything straight from its title. With its synopsis in tow (provided just further), it was easy to assume going into this that it would be a tearjerker. As someone whose tears are so hard to jerk that oftentimes I forget I can even produce them, a challenge was proposed. What I didn’t expect (though perhaps I should have) was just how literally the film’s title would be to its overall content.
“A group of women in an isolated religious colony struggle to reconcile their faith with a string of sexual assaults committed by the colony’s men.”
This month has just been a long string of depressing features, huh?
I am also pretty sleepy and it’s very late in the day, so this write-up will be fairly direct.
Women Talking is like naming an ice cream shop “Ice Cream.” Exactly what you’re in for. A large majority—and I mean a large majority—of this film is a group of women sitting in a room and talking. Sometimes they shout, sometimes they bicker, sometimes they cry, but they always talk.
In this respect, there’s a play-like atmosphere to it that may come across as too intentional. Each character gets their turn to make one long dramatic speech or harrowing moment of realization. Each character has a chance to make their voice heard. Chapters in a book, parts in a play, presenting order in a classroom. To me, it gets a little vapid.
Such would be more harmful if the performers did not give every ounce of talent they could provide. Jessie Buckley, Mara Rooney, Claire Foy, Judith Ivey, Sheila McCarthy, and Ben Whishaw are all fantastic here, providing enough of their own individuality to garner compelling conversations throughout each scene. Whenever any name listed were onscreen, it was worth paying attention. It’s fortunate that most were generally onscreen, if not alone then all together.
There is some discussion regarding the visual quality here, with the color coding dulled very, very far into the grayscale. Personally, I didn’t care too much. I figured the oppressive nature of their reality played a part in things, not wanting to provide even an ounce of respite from the grim tone. Some will call it ugly, I’m willing to regard it as an artistic choice that didn’t detract much from my experience. Actors were still clear and poignant; that is what mattered most to me in the end.
Looking back on it, acting really saved this. How straightforward the plot is requires a lot of effort from the actors to pick up the slack that the story wouldn’t otherwise provide. They did terrifically when taking the reins. If not for every actor being borderline brilliant, this is likely a much weaker film, perhaps even a bad one. Sometimes it pays to have an all-star cast.
Somewhat flimsy in its structural integrity, Women Talking manages to exemplify actor talent to its fullest extent. Women talking, not the film, can certainly make for gripping content within the right conditions. And the cries for empathy throughout, though likely to rub many the wrong way, are effective enough to allow it that “tearjerker” label. I didn’t cry, but others certainly will.
Final Score: 7/10
The rating for all other films can be found at Letterboxd.
For more, check out the March of the Movies Archive!
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Thank you for your time. Have a great rest of your day.