REVIEW: ‘Women Talking’ is a harrowing tale of bravery

“Women Talking” may not seem like a survival movie at first glance, but it definitely is one, and a good one at that.

The film centers on women of a Mennonite community in an isolated, rural area. Early on, the audience learns that several of the women in the community have been drugged and sexually assaulted on multiple occasions.

Set in 2010, the film picks up with the men of the colony having left to handle the legal matters related to those who committed assaults and have been taken into custody. Meanwhile, the women of the community begin a debate on whether to stay and fight against those who committed rape and try to make change, or leave the colony altogether.

Getting fully into “Women Talking” takes a bit of time. Living up to its title, the film opens with plenty of discussion, but a viewer is sort of left playing catch-up on who’s who and the full scope of what’s happening.

However, once things get more established, the characters are fully introduced, and the situation becomes more clear, the film becomes quite captivating. The movie remains one heavy with dialogue as the characters continue to debate, but it’s continually attention-grabbing thanks to the compelling conversations taking place.

In a way, the film is reminiscent of a courtroom drama or a political thriller, but instead of a courthouse or the White House, detailed deliberations take place in an old barn. Like those genres, though, the movie includes arresting debate and important themes.

The movie has a strong feminist identity as the women featured are furious about the abuse they’ve suffered and are fully willing to take action to seek better lives for themselves and children. The question is what’s the best course of action, and women on both sides of the debate bring strong arguments. 

Courtesy Orion Pictures, Plan B Entertainment and United Artists

Watching these women come to the best solution they have, and making compromises with each other to ensure they have a plan that’s effective for all parties, really make for an effective dialogue-centered drama. The more these women share with each other, the stronger the film gets until it reaches its powerful conclusion.

The ensemble cast featured makes a lot of this movie work. The film features the likes of Emmy winner Claire Foy and Academy Award winner Frances McDormand, as well as Oscar nominees Rooney Mara and Jessie Buckley, and Emmy nominee Judith Ivey.

Their talent is clear as day, as each woman does significant work in their roles. That’s especially true with Ivey, who steals the show in several moments as the wise elder of the group.

One of the few areas where the film is a bit lacking is its visual identity. While watching the movie, one could easily think it’s based on a play, rather than the novel it was adapted from, as it feels very stagey. The color palette is very gray, matching the dreary atmosphere, which is a plus, but the stage play look remains.

Overall, “Women Talking” takes some time to get its wheels turning but when it hits its stride, it turns out to be one of 2022’s strongest movies. Even though it doesn’t have the most dynamic cinematic look, it’s still a good film. 4.25 out of 5.

Author: Matthew Liedke

Journalist and film critic in Minnesota. Graduate of Rainy River College and Minnesota State University in Moorhead. Outside of movies I also enjoy sports, craft beers and the occasional video game.

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