megan’s review published on Letterboxd:
Women Talking is made out of questions. As the questions are posed each character has a different point of view and set of experiences they are coming from. The set-up for Women Talking conjures images of a thought experiment where characters only serve as stand-in's for a particular ideology, but through intelligence, both on an intellectual and emotional level, compassion, and Sarah Polley's understanding of the cinematic form, and the full-bodied performances from the entire cast, it is opened up and expanded. The women feel like real people, and not metaphors- the questions they ask feel directly tied to their personality and outlook, and they are allowed the opportunity to grow and change their minds. Most of the women don't end with the same position on how to respond to the attacks and move forward as they started out with. Watching people change their mind is rather exciting, and Polley does a brilliant job of showing the process.
The constant barrage of questions always has the affect of pulling the audience into the movie. It subliminally forces the audience to think and answer the questions for themselves. As such, I was completely immersed in Women Talking . I couldn't move my eyes from the screen for a second. It's suspenseful, complicated, urgent, hopeful, and emotionally powerful.
One of the beauties of Women Talking is the coordination of the performers. They are all locked in together on the same wavelength. In the future when the question of "What are some movies with great ensembles", Women Talking will be a sure-fire answer. I would be hard pressed to find a performance that is better or worse than others. It's very democratic. Rooney Mara is dreamy and heartbreaking, Claire Foy is a volcano threatening to go off at any second, Jessie Buckley is full of pain without any means of expression, and Ivey and McCarthy express of years and years of internalized trauma. All of the actors are very good listeners, and the explosions of strong emotion are played in such a way as to not feel forced. Ben Whishaw is very good as his character tries to figure out what men should do in such situations. The movie took me right out when another character literally says, "Not all men" and it cuts to Whishaw. I nearly burst out laughing. I know it's really beside the point, but I thought that Mara and Whishaw's relationship was very sweet.
A lot of discussion about Women Talking have positioned it in relation to MeToo, but the heartbreaking thing is that women have always needed to have these sorts of conversations, and will continue to in the future. Listen.