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Rooney Mara and Claire Foy in Sarah Polley’s Sharp Drama – The Hollywood Reporter

“What follows is an act of women’s imagination,” declares a strikethrough at the top Women talking. That’s an accurate description – the feature is writer-director Sarah Polley’s adaptation of Miriam Toews’ novel, which revolves around female members of a Mennonite colony. But those preambles are also a mockery and a challenge: The women are categorizing their reactions to years of calculated sexual abuse, years when the cult’s male leaders their silence by emphasizing that the horrors they experienced belonged to the realm of the devil or the “wild imaginations of women.”

At the heart of Polley’s intelligent, benevolent film is the belief that in film and in life, words can be actions – and for those who are denied their voice, they can be revolutionaries. . Women’s discussion can make the audience not want to go there. For those ready to take the leap, the thoughtful and beautifully lensed feature is a rewarding exploration that not only solves the predicaments of the characters, but the existential questions that exist. any contemporary woman is facing patriarchal settings.

Women talking

Key point

A sophisticated vision of rage and hope.

Toews’ 2019 novel was inspired by horrifying events in a Mennonite community in Bolivia, where women were drugged and raped for years while they slept by a group of men in the colony. their. The book revolves around the deliberations of women, in a haystack, after they learn the truth about their assaults. Their discussion is filtered through the voice of a man they still trust, teacher August, enlisting to record the minutes of their meeting since none of them have been taught to read or write. In Polley’s interpretation, August, played by Ben Whishaw, is a particularly emotional character, but the female voices guide the story without intermediaries, brought to life by a powerful group of newcomers and established talents.

The film was shot on the big screen by Luc Montpellier with an unsaturated palette of sepia, black, gray and blue, a visual scheme enhanced by Peter Cosco’s refined production design and costumes by Peter Cosco. Quita Alfred, artistically embodies the restrained women’s wardrobe personalities of this isolated rural place without a name.

Given a few days to forgive men who were arrested for rape – or excommunicated from the colony and thus denied a place in heaven – the women voted for three Possible responses: do nothing, stay and fight, or leave. These are essential choices for how to deal with any life crisis, but for those who have lived such sheltered lives, the vote is an extraordinary undertaking. The tally was an impasse between the latter two options and women from the two families were selected to review those options and decide.

When all the men are away, either in jail or in bail care for those, the colony is transformed: The women stay on their own. Putting themselves to a test they never imagined, and aware that they were embarking on sacred, life-changing work, they washed each other’s feet before starting a conversation. Before long, beliefs and temperaments clashed between eight people, representing three generations, who gathered in a haystack. The youngest of these, Autje (Kate Hallett), offers a carefully used voiceover narration that suggests a future beyond this flash point. Autje and her best friend Neitje (Liv McNeil) are a little older, braiding each other’s hair, walking around and sighing back and forth, occasionally interjecting a word or two that seems confusing and deep. sharp.

The contemplative, beautiful Ona (Rooney Mara), who is pregnant from an assault, envisions a society where women are educated and participate in decisions that shape the community; she radiates with equality and idealism. Autje’s mother, Mariche (Jessie Buckley), attacks nearly everyone with a fiercely belligerent attitude accompanied by speechless hurt. Salome (Claire Foy), who has shown the courage to defy men’s rules by seeking medical treatment for her ailing daughter outside the colony, shows less conflicting anger. Mariche, and Foy show the character’s maternal instincts and perception of injustice as a powerful force.

Teen Mejal (Michelle McLeod) suffers from panic attacks and has been smoking since the assault. The two oldest women in the group, Agata and Greta, are witty characters played by Judith Ivey and Sheila McCarthy respectively. Women’s anger towards men is an awakening, clarifying the unresolved resentments in life; boys are another matter, and with just a few snapshots of their baby faces, Polley asks us to consider how innocent children grow up to be the kind of men who hold back women and how brutal they are sometimes.

Her script gives each main character a monologue. Frances McDormand, the film’s producer, briefly appeared on screen as someone who couldn’t imagine leaving the community; there is an untold story of the obvious blade-shaped scar on her cheek; The way in which women accept abuse is passed down from generation to generation is touched upon elsewhere in the story.

It’s Whishaw’s August, with his lifelong love for Ono expressed in friendship rather than romance, the film’s character being a heartbreaking character. A former member of the colony whose family was deported because his mother “questioned many things” about the patriarchal restrictions of the community, he sometimes resented the rejection – “If I marry , I won’t be myself,” Ono told him after he suggested they get married – which he could barely finish a sentence.

The most intriguing aspect of the story is that we see these women move away from marriage and domestic affairs (although there are some glimpses of the simplicity of their families). As they gather in that haystack, they will focus on the big questions of agency and self-liberation, and they ask each other other essential questions, Polley’s eloquent dialogue based on material and finds its own rhythm.

What’s more important than who wants to stay and who wants to leave is how the women’s interactions change each of them, and how they find congruence, sometimes literally, in reenactments. restoration of traditional hymns. In these cases, “Closer to God than I am to God” and quotes from the Bible can be manifestations of something radical.

Throughout the film, Hildur Guðnadóttir’s score (Joker, Chernobyl) is an ingenious blend of tradition and a sense of longing, while the Monkees’ inclusion of “Daydream Believer” enriches a sequence involving a census-taker, which is a copy. Stunning pop of surrealism.

Montpellier’s camera follows the girls of the colony as they wander through the fields with lyrical childish abandon. He captures the inner light of women, and he and Polley frame women’s interactions with formal works that make them shine in the light of something historic, timeless. The world outside them, viewed from a narrow, secluded doorway, was an impressionist blur. What’s more for those who have never been allowed to see a map?

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