Starring Rooney Mara, Claire Foy, Jessie Buckley, Judith Ivey, Sheila McCarthy, with Ben Whishaw and Frances McDormand
Women Talking is a searing, powerful film that looks unflinching at the survivors of sexual assault in a small Bolivian Mennonite community. Directed by Sarah Polley, it follows a community of women as they grapple with their trauma, seek justice, and ultimately find strength in solidarity. The cast includes Rooney Mara (Carol), Claire Foy (First Man), Jessie Buckley (The Lost Daughter), Judith Ivey, Ben Whishaw, and Frances McDormand (Nomadland), who also co-produced the film.
The story comes from actual events: In 2018, reports surfaced about decades of abuse suffered by female members of the conservative religious sect living in Bolivia's Chaco region. Polley tells the story in a way that creates empathy for these women without showing the violence on screen. In the film, the women discuss and debate how to respond to the sexual violence that they've experienced. Ultimately it comes down to three choices; do nothing, stay and fight, or leave.
"It's not [a story] about taking down the patriarchy. It's about illuminating a matriarchy that has been there since time immemorial."
At its heart, Women Talking is a film about the power of women's stories. Polley gives us access to each character's inner world as they grapple with their feelings of guilt and shame but also challenge generations-long traditions and taboos around gender norms. We see them forming a group that catalyzes change in their small community. Women Talking is a multi-dimensional story; as McDormand explains in an interview, "It's not about taking down the patriarchy. It's about illuminating a matriarchy that has been there since time immemorial."
It's hard not to see this film in the context of the recent overturning of Roe v. Wade, even though the film was begun before that Supreme Court decision and halted during the pandemic. The film is heartbreakingly honest yet hopeful, simultaneously creating a sense of catharsis while showing us how change can happen when we speak out against injustice. Whether or not you're already familiar with the Mennonite culture, Women Talking will make you think - and it won't let you look away until its powerful conclusion.
Women Talking is an essential reminder of the strength and resilience of women everywhere - and one you shouldn't miss.