Women Talking carries an important and topical discussion but is held back by its lackluster pace and uneven structure.
The final piece of my coverage on the 22nd Houston Cinema Arts Festival is about a film that has been highly spoken about for a while now around the awards circuit. Women Talking had its premiere at the 2022 Telluride Film Festival and also had other film festivals screenings like Toronto International Film Festival and New York Film Festival. It managed to garner a good amount of hype and because I did not have the chance to travel to New York for NYFF this year, I was excited to watch this film at HCAF this year. We also had part of the supporting cast in attendance for a post-screening Q&A moderated by one of the programmers of the Museum of Fine Arts at Houston. Yet, even with all the excitement built around this film, Sarah Polley’s Women Talking did nothing to move the needle for me.
Women Talking is based on the novel by Miriam Toews that is inspired by a real-life story of Mennonite women in Bolivia. The film’s script is written by Sarah Polley who also directs the film. Its cast includes names such as Rooney Mara, Claire Foy, Jessie Buckley, Judith Ivey, Ben Whishaw, and Frances McDormand (who also serves as a producer). The movie’s cinematography is provided by Luc Montpellier and its score is composed by none other than Hildur Guðnadóttir. Women Talking has been named one of the best films of 2022 by both the American Film Institute and the National Board of Review. Along with those accolades it has also been nominated for Golden Globes Awards, Critics Choice Awards, and Screen Actors Guild Awards,, and several people are awaiting news of possible Academy Awards nominations.
In Women Talking we follow a group of women living in a Mennonite community who have been physically and sexually assaulted, and are tasked with making the decision to stay or leave the colony forever. The film tackles a struggle of faith and examines the violent power struggle of structural misogyny. Women of all ages meet together to discuss democratically their reasons to stay or leave. As the final day approaches to make their decision, the women find themselves struggling to make a decision that benefits them. A fight against violence and their lack of freedom create an interesting concept that is lost on a lackluster execution.
Even though Women Talking has an interesting concept and great performances from Jessie Buckley, Claire Foy, and Rooney Mara it’s held back by an uneven pace. I found myself to be really drawn to the first act but it never recovers from a pace that drags its feet until the credits roll. I loved Hildur Guðnadóttir but I felt that it did not match the visual language provided by the film’s color palette and cinematography. The script is fine and there are some really clever uses of dialogue that stand out but the biggest problem lies in its editing. The second act becomes too redundant and I feel with shaving off about around 10 to 15 minutes you’d have a better-structured narrative. While I did not like Women Talking you cannot deny its importance in the conversations had within the film. That’s why this will continue to live in the public whether or not it’s the best-made film or not.
Watch Women Talking in theaters as it continues its wide theatrical release.