Women Talking encapsulates women’s struggles within a colony.

22 April 2023 / by Jordyn Lalonde

Violence towards women is the main issue within Women Talking, which continues to occur in various parts of the world that contain more traditional viewpoints and severe gender inequality, in which women are less significant than men. Sarah Polley is the director and screenplay writer for Women Talking, starring Claire Foy, Rooney Mara, Jessie Buckley, Ben Whishaw, Kate Hallett, and Frances McDormand. Women Talking premiered at TIFF on September 13th, 2022.

The movie takes place in a Manitoba Colony in a remote and isolated Mennonite community in Bolivia. The film shows multiple women waking up in their beds with blood stains. Then, it shows a woman beating on a man who’s captive in an enclosed space, in which the woman gets carried away by men, so she’ll stop beating him. The rest of the film mostly takes place in a barn, with a group of women from a Mennonite community who discuss three options they can take; staying in the community and apologizing to the men who raped them, staying and fighting, or leaving. Scarface Janz (Frances McDormand) leaves the barn to return to her house at the beginning of the meeting with her daughter and granddaughter, as she firmly believes that if the women don’t stay and forgive the men who wronged them, they will be giving up their place in heaven. 

There are three women in the discussion on the farm who have the most prominent yet differing opinions. Mariche (Jessie Buckley) fears what could happen if they don’t apologize to the men and do as they are told. Salome (Claire Foy) is furious and seeks vengeance on the men who harmed her and her young daughter, in which she wants to stay and fight them. Ona (Rooney Mara) is peaceful and optimistic and wants to find a life outside of the colony in which she can raise her unborn child. Autje (Kate Hallett) narrates the story of the meeting and the rapings to the unborn baby of Ona until the end of the film, when the baby is born. August (Ben Whishaw) is the only man in the barn with the women who writes what they say and do and tries not to interfere with their discussion, as he believes they shouldn’t have a man impeding their conversation. Although August does talk respectfully when the women allow it, and he frequently speaks to Ona as he has a crush on her. 

The scenes aside from the discussions had in the barn consist of showing parts of the women’s stories of their rapes and how they have dealt with it, as well as telling how some women couldn’t handle it much longer and committed suicide to rid their pain and suffering permanently. Ultimately, all the women, girls and several boys leave the colony to live a better life. In contrast, one woman, Scarface Janz, remains, as she believes if she goes, she won’t be accepted into heaven, although her daughter and granddaughter decide to leave the colony last minute. The film contains themes of violence, oppression, redemption, communication, faith, togetherness and freedom. 

The film was excellent in depicting the true horrors the women had faced with the constant rapings, the lack of action the men chose to take to protect them and how the togetherness of the women led to the ultimate sacrifice that would lead them to a better life. Initially, I had never heard of Mennonites but had heard of and seen the Amish and their culture. Therefore, I made some connections between the two communities based on their traditional lifestyles. Despite the fact that the film could be boring based on its title, the character’s intense emotions and range in the discussion made it quite intriguing and entertaining. 

The costumes and settings were excellent as they indicated the traditional lifestyles those in the Mennonite communities would live. This helped me understand more about the characters and their significantly different lives in today’s technological-focused world. The soundtrack by Hildur Guõnadóttir was great at encapsulating the characters’ emotions. Almost all of the titles of the instrumental-dominant songs depict the scenes precisely what occurred within the various scenes such as “Teeth” when one of the women is raped, and the scene shows her teeth falling out from the aftermath. 

The character’s emotions and actions made me feel more connected to them, as I could see their pain from the violence they repeatedly encountered and how that affected their lifestyles. It made me realize how fortunate I am not only to have never gone through something as terrible and traumatic as what they have gone through but also to have the privilege of people believing in me and receiving the support I would need if this were to occur, based on societal differences. 

The only part I believe that could have been included within the film is possibly a single small scene from the men’s part of the community in which we can see what they are doing while the women are discussing their plans, maybe even including some dialogue from the men indicating their opinions on the situation at hand. However, this may take away from the film, as the women are the primary characters, and it is their time to shine and speak on their struggles. 

Women Talking is a great film depicting the importance of communication and togetherness within societies. Many occurrences, such as rape, are dismissed because of ignorance, lack of trust, or disbelief in the victims. The film shows how one conversation can mean life or death. Oppression against women is still a very relevant worldwide issue because of the lack of respect and support for them and the traditional regulations set in place. Women Talking was released on September 13th, 2022 and can be rented or bought on Amazon Prime for a limited time.