Women Talking (2023) Review
OSCAR season gives people the opportunity to check out movies that would've otherwise passed them by, with Sarah Polley's Women Talking being a prime example of this fortuity. But at the end of day, one question remains: does the movie deserve its place among the Best Picture nominees?
Based on the true novel of the same name, Women Talking follows a group of women living in an isolated religious community who are given three choices after men in the village are charged with sexual assault: do nothing, stay and fight, or leave. As a result of a tied-vote, a select group of women are chosen to unanimously vote on whether they should forgive the men, or leave their colony for good.
This somber story may not possess flashiness or flamboyance seen in more recent movies, but what the film makes up for its lack of style is the handling of its screenplay, masterfully headed by director Sarah Polley. The direction Polley takes with the 2010-communal setting is one that is hard to believe at first, but as the film progresses, you begin to put yourself into the women's shoes as motivations and decisions are made in a manner which makes sense for each woman due to meticulous handling of the distinct and charming personalities taking centre stage. Similarities have been made between this film and 1957's 12 Angry Men due to both movies more or less being set in a singular location and for focusing on a small cast of characters. Despite many movies attempting to replicate the magic of 12 Angry Men's timeless concept, Women Talking handles its true story beautifully; not lingering on for too long or thrusting its message upon viewers with short-sightedness.
The cast chosen for Women Talking justly showcases the group of women working together as a unit, with the film possessing no specific standouts. While select actors such as Rooney Mara, Jessie Buckley, Claire Foy and Ben Whishaw all churn out routinely-great performances, everybody performs at their peak when acting as an ensemble, proving that not all films need to revolve around one superior performance outshining the rest; everybody felt like they lived with one another for years in this religious community due to the tremendous chemistry by all involved, with even younger actresses proving their worth, especially when factoring in their integral roles within the setting.
While the film itself was a great one to experience, what truly elevated Women Talking for me were many of the minor details implemented to give the movie character and a deeper perspective into the women's concealed lives. Towards the end of act one, a truck begins to play my most treasured song: Daydream Believer by The Monkees. The use of this timeless classic proved to be incredibly effective when factoring in the darker circumstances characters are faced with, tapping into the song's sinister aspects. Hidden underneath Daydream Believer's happy-go-lucky surface describes the mundanity of life, and considering the secluded lifestyle the women are afforded, the song more than deserved its place in the film and ended up elevating its quality because of my unapologetic favouritism.
Another subtle aspect was the film's use of colour grading, with Polley explaining her team experimented with the saturation levels to give audiences the feeling of "a world that had faded in the past". Faint applications like this can be the difference between a forgettable film and an enduring one, and considering Women Talking has been nominated for two Academy Awards this year, the answer to whether the movie has earned its place in the Best Picture category is crystal clear: yes, yes it does.