There have been a fair few stories in TV & film this year covering issues around assault against women, from the terrifying but compelling Girl in the Box that released on Paramount+ this year, to the upcoming She Said starring Carey Mulligan and Zoe Kazan.
New film Women Talking, set to be released later this year, is in a similar vein, adapted from the 2018 book of the same name by Miriam Toews. It follows eight Mennonite women who convene in secret to discuss their repeated drugging, assault and rape by men in their colony.
The adaptation is directed by Sarah Polley, who has also directed Away from Her and Stories We Tell, and has a seriously impressive cast: Rooney Mara, Claire Foy, Jessie Buckley, Judith Ivey, Ben Wishaw and Frances McDormand all star, with McDormand also producing. The film is set in 2010 and is loosely based on real events that occurred in Bolivia in the late 2000s. It mostly unfolds in one setting, and the title is apt – much of the film’s drama and story is told entirely through dialogue.
The women discuss options on what to do with their current lives of abuse and submission: to either leave, or stay and try and change things themselves. Wishaw plays the only man trusted by the group of women, and helps keep a record of things. Foy and Buckley’s characters, Salome and Mariche, are the most outspoken about their treatment, Mara’s character Ona is concerned about leaving while pregnant, and the rest of the women voice their own worries and feelings about the situation.
The film doesn’t depict the violence and assault itself, but rather the aftermath and the struggle to do something about it. As well as grappling with how to leave, the women, being in a highly religious community, question and worry about how any action they take may affect their faith. The film deals with difficult and uncomfortable topics, but acts as a “conversation starter” as Jessie Buckley puts it, to inspire debate and discussion amongst viewers. The film debuted at the Telluride Film Festival, and is set to debut in the US on 2nd December, with a UK release in February next year. You can watch the trailer above.
Women Talking releases on 10th February 2023