Women Talking by Sarah Polley [9/10]

Canadian writer-director Sarah Polley’s striking, imaginative adaptation of a 2018 Miriam Toews novel, Women Talking, does not hesitate for a second. A colony of isolated Mennonite women finally catch their men raping all and sundry with the aid of horse tranquilizer, and during a brief few days of possibility, delegate a crucial decision to a dozen women who meet in a hay loft. Should they do nothing, fight, or leave? The movie is doubly shocking for only showing memory glimpses of the horrific violence they have endured, and doubly intelligent for revolving around the debate itself, not any fraught aftermath. The hay loft debate, minuted by a gentle young male community member (played with such restrained emotion by Ben Whishaw that he crowns a litany of starring performances), has the air of a stage show debate, but is saved from tedium by a script alternatively deep, light, and even humorous. One can only marvel at the star turns of Clare Foy, Rooney Mara, and Jessie Buckley. The subtle music score by Hildur Guðnadóttir complements the urgent debating. Without a trace of sentimentality, Women Talking builds into an overpowering, tragic yet heroic quest. A stunner.

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