Jannah Theme License is not validated, Go to the theme options page to validate the license, You need a single license for each domain name.
Usa News

“Women Talking”, based on a true story, examines patriarchal violence

“Your story will be different from ours.” These are the last words of Sarah Polley’s film “Women Talking” and they succinctly sum up the film’s challenges, as well as its hopes. Polley attempts to show a way out of a history steeped in patriarchy and violence. But how do you pour old words into a new narrative? The film’s response is not entirely satisfactory. Yet there is a zest for life and a power even in asking the question – especially asking it in such a direct and unflinching way.

The film’s response is not entirely satisfactory. Yet there is a joy in life and a power even in asking the question

The film, based on a 2018 novel by Miriam Toews (in turn based on a true story), is set in 2010 in a fictional Mennonite colony. A handful of men in the community have been raping the women for years by sneaking into their rooms at night, stunning them with animal tranquilizers and assaulting them. The men told the women that they were attacked by ghosts or demons. After two girls catch one of the men in the act, he identifies the others and they are taken to jail in the city. The other men in the colony also leave to try to find money for bail.

While they’re away, the women in the community, almost all of whom have been assaulted, try to decide what to do next. The men told them they had to forgive the rapists or be exiled. After an inconclusive vote, a small council meets to decide whether to stay and fight or leave.

The outline of the plot could be adapted to a number of standard Hollywood genres. But the film carefully and even systematically refuses to embrace any of them.

The default for many female-centric films is still romance. “Women Talking” features a likely suitor in August (Ben Whishaw), a schoolteacher newly returned to the community who is very much in love with Ona (Rooney Mara). Ona is pregnant with her rapist’s child, however, and her concern to protect her baby and her community takes precedence over her ambiguous feelings for August. In this story, at least, patriarchy cannot be cured by love.

The film also doesn’t lean into paranoid supernatural thriller tropes, a la “Rosemary’s Baby.” Men tell women that demons are responsible for attacking them, but that’s a lie. “Women Talking” begins after the otherworldly pretense has already exploded. This is not a film about some mysterious evil but about a boring and very explainable evil that has already been done.

The movie could also be about justice – either through violent revenge or through the justice system. But as a woman, Salomé (Claire Foy) tries to attack the rapist at the very beginning of the film, she is arrested, and this is the extent of the retaliatory violence that we witness. Likewise, the film avoids courthouse drama. The men file a lawsuit, but it’s all offscreen. No lawyer offers answers here.

Instead, most “talking women” are, as the title suggests, talking women. The cast of the set – including battered wife Mariche (Jesse Buckley) and Ona’s mother, Agata (Judith Ivey) – sit in the barn trying to figure out what to do. They discuss their anger, their fear, their betrayal, their faith. They argue over what they owe their brothers, sons and husbands and what they owe their daughters and themselves. They wonder if they can or should forgive the men who have hurt them.

Instead, most “talking women” are, as the title suggests, talking women.

The stage direction doesn’t just refuse to use genre tropes; it also violates many of the critical expectations that signal “quality” to critics and moviegoers. The characters lack the clever quirks of indie film. Nor is there an Oscar performance rich in ambiguous nobility and self-sacrifice. The performances are emotional, but the characters aren’t exactly there to thrill. Instead, they offer didactic perspectives; the film’s important moments feel more like Platonic dialogue than drama. If violence is wrong, if murder is wrong, then what is the moral choice? How do we pursue good?

The film’s insistence on telling rather than showing can feel compelling, irritating, and deliberately obvious. August is told that it is not his place to speak not once, but many times. A trans character loses their voice. Greta (Sheila McCarthy) illustrates her point with folkloric anecdotes about the behavior of her horses.

But the requirement for complexity can also be a requirement to tell stories in a familiar way that justifies and excuses. Trained on old stories, we want to hear that the status quo can be repaired through love, through law, through violence. We want to hear that the status quo is tangled and that we should appreciate knots for their aesthetic intertwining. But as a number of women pointed out with some bitterness, nuances can sometimes distract from the main question: how to help survivors.

The answer, unsurprisingly, is complicated. But despite a few missteps, it’s hard not to admire the film’s stubborn courage. Polley refuses to give the audience the narrative they expect or want. If the result is uncomfortable, well, finding a new lead and a new life isn’t always easy or painless. “Women Talking” however insists that it is worth it.

nbcnews Gt

Not all news on the site expresses the point of view of the site, but we transmit this news automatically and translate it through programmatic technology on the site and not from a human editor.
Back to top button