review by Drusilla Blakey
This impactful movie, based on Miriam Toews' 2018 novel of the same name, had me upset, perturbed, fired up and emotional at the same time. The novel is inspired by real-life events that took place in a remote, ultraconservative Mennonite colony in Bolivia between 2005 and 2009. 130 girls and women were drugged and then sexually and physically assaulted while they slept. The youngest victim was three years old, the oldest was 65 and included a mentally challenged woman and a pregnant woman. When the women began reporting to report these attacks, the men of the colony told them that it was their wild female imagination. Later, once the men conceded that perhaps something did happen, they blamed the attacks on ghosts or even demons that were sent to punish them. One night a perpetrator was witnessed breaking into a victim’s house, which led to eight men from the community being put on trial and convicted for the crimes in 2011.
Now, on to the movie - The film is set in 2010 and as the film opens, we are provided with three choices: Do nothing. Stay and fight. Or leave. What first struck me was the look and feel of the film. These women are dressed like they were in the 1900s not the 2000s. Very simple plain black dresses and sandals. As a conservative community, there is no electricity or modern convenience of any kind. The women quietly perform their work taking care of the men and children, the home, cooking and cleaning, etc. Additionally, as the film unfolds, we find out that the women are not educated. They are not allowed to go to school and therefore, cannot read or write; they are purposely isolated.
Female 'leaders' of the community come together to figure out a way forward as they have come to realize that the men are not going to help
them or provide them justice. The struggle these women go through upon openly discussing their horrible reality and how to reconcile this with their faith was extremely impactful for me. As someone who was brought up in a conservative and strict religious household, I was personally invested in their discussions of how making a big decision like this, in itself, could be going against their faith. These women are dealing with the knowledge that the 'religious men' of their community are the ones attacking them. What has been done to them is a sin, but some women feel disobeying the men is a sin. Another feels like the sin committed against them should absolve them of any perceived sin if they leave. Another fears that leaving her husband will damn her to hell. It's a myriad of conflicts and struggles that these women have to come to terms with in one day.
Throughout all of these discussions, you begin to see the toll this has taken on each women present and how they are dealing with the trauma. One woman wants to ignore what happened to her, another is pregnant and can't ignore it, another is left physically scared, one is angry, one is in tears, another has episodes where she falls to the ground as she is slowly beginning to remember what happened. The saddest trauma of all is one line - as a child comes up to the mother and tells her "it hurts" as she quietly motions to her private parts. OMG, how can this not move you and make you angry? But this leads me to the amazing and truly earth shattering performances in this film. All the women in this cast are amazing! Of note we have Rooney Mara, Claire Foy and Frances McDormand. However, ever woman in this film has an opportunity to shine and give a great performance. So it's understandable why it has been nominated and won so many awards so far.
I encourage you to check out this movie. It is truly moving and will have you talking. Grab your copy of Woman Talking available now on digital, Blu-ray and DVD from Universal Home Entertainment.