‘Women Talking’ needs to be played and seen everywhere
“Women Talking” (US-Rated PG-13)
Cast: Claire Foy, Rooney Mara, Jessie Buckley, Ben Whishaw
Where to watch: Video-on-demand
Of all the movies released in the last year that most needed to play in The Bahamas, this one (almost predictably) did not – at least not yet.
And if it does, it most likely won’t be at the major multiplex.
That’s extremely unfortunate because “Women Talking” is so relevant to The Bahamas today that it may as well be set in Nassau in 2023.
It’s not though. The exact year is not specifically stated, but we can assume it’s within the last 20 years or so.
The women of an isolated religious colony reveal a shocking secret about the colony’s men. For years, the men have occasionally drugged the women and raped them. The truth comes out and the women talk about their situation.
Tag lines for the marketing for the film sum up what the women are talking about and the decision they need to make: “Do Nothing”, “Stay and Fight” or “Leave”. The women are split between which of those options to pick, and they debate the pros and cons of each. Despite the horrors they’ve faced, quite a few can point to good reasons to “do nothing”.
It’s remarkable how what the women discuss seems very much like what one hears and sees every day in this country, especially as it relates to the many here, intent on fiercely maintaining the status quo.
I’ll spare you my expanded commentary on all of this, except to say that one day, we will have to come to terms with the brainwashing that continues to happen in supposedly many more modern societies like ours, just as in isolated and insular communities as depicted in “Women Talking”.
As a cinematic exercise, “Women Talking” is presented in a simple manner, much like a stage play. In long scenes of dialogue, some of the women are very angry, others are scared, but a few are nonchalant and exceedingly calm. The contrasts are startling and feel realistic.
That sense of realism is ironic and also quite possible. Based on the eponymous 2018 novel, “Women Talking”, it is actually a fictitious account of the possible aftermath of some real-life events. So, yes, in real life at a Mennonite community in Bolivia, more than 100 women and girls were indeed drugged and raped between 2005 and 2009 by the men of their village. Did those women get together and talk like this afterward? Only that part is uncertain.
Making this tough subject material palatable is a powerhouse cast of superb actresses. Emmy-winner Claire Foy (“The Crown”), two-time Oscar nominee Rooney Mara (“The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” and “Carol”) and Oscar-nominee Jessie Buckley (“The Lost Daughter”) portray three of the most prominent characters who are separately the most vocal proponents of each of the three options.
The sole man with a significant role is English actor and Emmy-winner Ben Whishaw (“A Very English Scandal” and the voice of “Paddington” in that animated film series).
Three-time Best Actress Oscar winner Frances McDormand (“Fargo”, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” and “Nomadland”) has a small role. However, McDormand is the only member of the cast nominated for an Oscar this year – not as an actress, but rather, a producer, as “Women Talking” is up for Best Picture.
It’s one of the two Academy Awards nominations for the film, along with Best Adapted Screenplay for Director Sarah Polley.
By my best estimations, of the 10 Best Picture nominees this year, fewer than half played in wide release here. It’s one of the most dismal records we’ve seen since this column began.
But “Women Talking” needs to be played and seen everywhere. From schools to churches to town halls to the national stadium, everyone here needs to hear and listen to what these women are saying.
• Dwight Strachan is the host/producer of “Morning Blend” on Guardian Radio and station manager. He is a television producer and writer, and an avid TV history and film buff. Email email@example.com and follow him on twitter @morningblend969.