2022 AFI Film Festival: Women Talking movie review

Women Talking movie(l-r.) Ben Whishaw stars as August, Rooney Mara as Ona and Claire Foy as Salomein director Sarah Polley’s filmWOMEN TALKINGAn Orion Pictures ReleasePhoto credit: Michael Gibson© 2022 Orion Releasing LLC. All Rights Reserved.
Women Talking movie(l-r.) Ben Whishaw stars as August, Rooney Mara as Ona and Claire Foy as Salomein director Sarah Polley’s filmWOMEN TALKINGAn Orion Pictures ReleasePhoto credit: Michael Gibson© 2022 Orion Releasing LLC. All Rights Reserved. /
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On the fourth day of the 2022 AFI Film Festival, I watched Sarah Polley’s latest film, Women Talking. It’s considered one of the front runners in several Academy Award categories. But is it worthy of that praise? Let’s dive in.

Women Talking follows the women grappling with reconciling their reality with their faith. The film is based on the novel by Miriam Toews. It was written and directed by Sarah Polley and stars Rooney Mara, Claire Foy, and Jessie Buckley.

Every so often, a film comes along that you want to review, and you aren’t sure you know the right words to convey what you just watched. Women Talking is that movie for me because it has so much to say, and it’s the type of film you need to see for yourself to understand how I feel. That said, here are the best words I jumbled together for you.

I watched many films about finding your voice throughout the AFI Film Festival. From the opening night with Selena Gomez’s My Mind and Me to She Said to Bardo to this film. At some point in our lives, we all have felt silenced, and that silence comes at a cost, whether it’s our peace, freedom, or ability to think for ourselves. It can be a friend, family member, or someone you don’t know who does it, but it’s hard to recover once they take a little piece of you.

The women in Women Talking have been silenced for a long time, and not just silenced, but had their innocence ripped away from them. And by innocents, I know you understand what I mean, but to paint a picture for you, it’s not just teenagers and adults, but little children that are being taken advantage of, and while hard to watch throughout this film, it’s so essential to understand that pain.

One of the most impactful things we see throughout this film is the expansive dialogue from these women (and children) recanting the actions of these men, but Polley doesn’t make this about the men. What I mean by that is we rarely see them or what they did but allow the words and bruises to tell the story in a way that impacts us, the viewer, in a way that is more profound than seeing the action itself.

Speaking of dialogue, I am not sure you will see a better ensemble cast in any film this year. From top to bottom, these actresses pour their hearts into these words that engulf you in this world that Polley is building. My personal favorite was probably Claire Foy because the moments within that rage are truly astonishing acting. However, this entire cast delivers some poignant lines that bring chills down your arms.

Now a massive lesson can be learned from this film regarding handling someone who has been silenced or hurt. The lesson comes in the form of August (Ben Whishaw), the man in charge of taking the minutes of these meetings by these women. Now, the writing of August was so well done because he wasn’t perfect in his attempt to help. He spoke up when he shouldn’t have, but at the same time, as the film progressed, how August used his words was different because not only did he listen to these women, he learned from what they had to say. Listening is one of the most vital things we can do in life, which means listening to hear, not listening to talk.

There isn’t a single thing about this movie I would change. There was some chatter about the color grading, which never wavered my feelings about what was transpiring. Composer Hildur Guðnadóttir’s score is equally parts brilliant as it is haunting. And I’ve credited Polley’s writing, but her direction and placement of the camera are top-notch.

Overall, Women Talking is one of the best movies of the year, if not the best. However, if you didn’t gather from my words, I would warn you that it is NOT an easy watch. It is a tough movie to digest, but it is worth it because it’s so powerful.

Women Talking hits theaters on Dec. 25, 2022. 

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