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Fight? Forgive? Flee? Women Talking about Women Talking

One of the best movies of the year centers on a group of women, played by an all-star cast, who demand respect in the face of sexism and brutality.

Last week, a group of intrepid Austin NextTribers braved the cold and headed to our local cinema to see the newly released film, Women Talking. Two of our group hadn’t yet seen the trailer and walked into the film unaware of the topic.

This time the victim was a child.

The film opens with dreamy, soft light, young boys and girls playing in a field as children do everywhere, chasing, laughing, playing tag, picking grass, climbing on hay bales. The girls wear plain, modest dresses, their long hair in plats tied with string. The young boys wear overalls and plaid shirts, like farm boys everywhere. You don’t know if this story takes place in this century or the last, as its setting and conflict are timeless.

There has been yet another female sexually assaulted by a faceless man from their own religious community, but this time the victim was a child. The women are gathering to decide on collective action while the men and older boys are away for a short time. But these women are definitely not of one mindset. Some are seething with impotent rage, eager to take justice into their own hands. Many are fearful and passive. Others are prayerful and calm. They all understand that the outcome of this decision will change their lives forever. The women are articulate but illiterate, casting their votes with large, hand-drawn Xs on paper with illustrations that depict their three choices. Forgive. Fight. Or Flee.

Read More: 2022 Women of the Year: the Sane, the Strong, the Generous

A Nameless Religion; A Universal Fight

We never know the name or denomination of the women’s religion. They simply refer to “the Colony.” Only one man remains behind as the other men have left the colony. He’s a rather timid and overly polite school teacher. He’s invited by the women to stay to witness and document the group’s decisions, both because he is trustworthy and because he is educated.

The incredible cast of actors are reason enough to see this film. Imagine an ensemble of the best British and American actors, among them Claire Foy (the Queen from seasons one and two of The Crown), Rooney Mara, Judith Ivey, Sheila McCarthy, Frances McDormand, and many more, young and old.

Three generations of women engage in complex discussions about how to break the cycles of violence.

Director Sarah Polley takes Miriam Toews’ bestselling novel of the same name and brings it to life with all its beauty and brutality. The entire film takes place on the land and in a barn of the Colony, in the course of one day. The flashbacks and scenes of violence are short and not graphic. The dialog is some of the best written I’ve ever heard. Their conversations and debates are powerful. Complex discussions by three generations of women, of what it means to live by the tenets of their faith. What it means to forgive. When to fight back. Whether or not God would want them to defend and protect their children. How to break the cycles of violence and teach their young boys before they grow to be abusive men.

Making the Decision

Luc Montpellier’s muted cinematography and Andrea Kristof’s art direction bring a bucolic beauty to the setting. The sun and shadows move across the barn and the women’s faces as the day progresses and their time is running out.

Your heart is thumping when their final decision is made.

Your heart is thumping when their final decision is made.

As the credits rolled, our group gathered in the lobby to discuss. We couldn’t get our praise for the film out fast enough. We highly recommend it to anyone who wants a deep-dive discussion of all things relating to women’s agency in the world, the power of women standing up for each other, as well as women demanding respect in society, both traditional and modern.

Read More: Cate Blanchett Is a Masterful, Doomed Genius in Tár

By Marcellina Kampa


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