WOMEN TALKING – Review by Susan Wloszczyna

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Those who enjoy ensemble dramas will likely appreciate filmmaker Sarah Polley’s Women Talking – especially those who support the #MeToo movement and who will gladly listen to some talented ladies who have a huge decision to make. In 2010, the women of a community who have had enough must make a decision about leaving their isolated Mennonite colony that allows the men to drug and rape the women while bloodily beating them in the night, initially blaming an animal like a goat or Satan or attributing the physical assaults as acts of female imagination.

The film is loosely based on a novel by Miriam Toews about an actual incident that happened a decade ago in Bolivia, in which seven men used an animal tranquilizer to drug and rape the women and girls in their community, absurdly avoiding punishment by blaming their crimes on supernatural demons.

The men of the community get to be educated but the women barely know how to read and write. However, they know how to vote. Eight females who’ve decided they have had enough convene in a claustrophobic hayloft as they want to take a vote about what to do. Their choices? “We must decide to stay and fight or leave. We will not do nothing.”

One of the elder members among the women, Scarface Janz, a stern and crotchety character whose presumed nickname is as plain as the wounds on her face, is played by Frances McDormand, who is also a producer on this project. Janz decides to stay and is is decidedly against the women leaving the sect. After all, according to their faith, if they don’t forgive their predators, they’ll be denied entrance into Heaven.

As for the others, Ona (Rooney Mara) is pregnant and fears fleeing in her condition. She has formed a bond with August (Ben Whishow), the only man to help the women to gain freedom from their horrible lives. Anyone can see he clearly loves Ona and is filled with compassion for all the women. As for Salome (Claire Foy) and Mariche (Jessie Buckley), they are both spitfires who are bullish on leaving as soon as they can. For one thing, Mariche is being horribly beaten by her husband. Some have dubbed the film “12 Angry Women,” which mostly does it justice.

Oddly enough, the film’s cinematographer Luc Montpellier desaturates most of the color from the screen, making the film sepia-toned. But instead of color, there is a rainbow of full of emotion and release by seeing how the women finally unchained themselves and leave the religious colony behind.

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Susan Wloszczyna

In her nearly 30 years at USA Today, Susan Wloszczyna interviewed everyone from Vincent Price and Shirley Temple to Julia Roberts and Will Smith. Her coverage specialties include animation, musicals, comedies and any film starring Hayley Mills, Sandy Dennis or hobbits. Her crowning career achievements so far, besides having Terence Stamp place his bare feet in her lap during an interview for The Limey, is convincing the paper to send her to New Zealand twice for set visits, once for The Return of the King and the other for The Chronicles of Narnia and King Kong, and getting to be a zombie extra and interview George Romero in makeup on the set for Land of the Dead. Though not impressive enough for Pulitzer consideration, she also can be blamed for coining the moniker "Frat Pack," often used to describe the comedy clique that includes Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn and Will Ferrell. Her positions have included Life section copy desk chief for four years and a film reviewer for 12 years. She is currently a contributor for the online awards site Gold Derby and is an Oscar expert for RogerEbert.com. Previously, she has been a freelance film reporter and critic, contributing regularly to RogerEbert.com, MPAA’s The Credits, the Washington Post, AARP The Magazine online and Indiewire as well as being a book reviewer for The Buffalo News. She previously worked as a feature editor at the Niagara Gazette in Niagara Falls, N.Y. A Buffalo native, she earned her bachelor's degree in English at Canisius College and a master's degree in journalism from Syracuse University.