WOMEN TALKING is the new best picture nominated film from writer/director Sarah Polley, who is minor-key beloved as an actress for people around my age (THE ADVENTURES OF BARON MUNCHAUSEN, GO, EXISTENZ, DAWN OF THE DEAD, SPLICE), but these days is more known as an acclaimed filmmaker (she directed AWAY FROM HER, TAKE THIS WALTZ and STORIES WE TELL). Now I’ve finally seen one of the ones she directed, and it lives up to her reputation. It’s based on a novel, but I would’ve guessed it was based on a play, because it’s one of those stories with a really concise but heavy-duty set up to put a top shelf ensemble of actors into a limited location (in this case a hay loft) with much to discuss, debate, and decide. Kind of a 12 ANGRY MEN deal, except there’s very intentionally only one man with a speaking part in the whole movie. And he’s way more sad than angry.
Canadian author Miriam Toews wrote the novel as a “reaction through fiction” to a real thing that happened in a Mennonite colony in Bolivia. So bear with me – this is awful. In an isolated religious colony (here seemingly in the U.S.) women and even young girls have, for some time, been waking up bruised and covered in blood as they have been repeatedly knocked unconscious by cow tranquilizer and then raped. For years they’ve been told by the elders that they imagined it or it was the Devil or a ghost or a punishment from God or all that kind of bullshit. But before the movie begins our young narrator Autje (Kate Hallett) and her friend Neitje (Liv McNeil) caught one of them running away, they got him to name the others, they were arrested and taken to jail. The men of the colony have gone to the city to bail them out, and given the women 48 hours to forgive them, or they will be excommunicated. Can you believe that shit? (read the rest of this shit…)