Sarah Poley – Women Talking – Movie Review by Efe Teksoy


Cinema Writer/Film Critic Efe TEKSOY; wrote the drama film “WOMEN TALKING” for America’s Los Angeles-based Internet Newspaper @alaturkanews.


Having its world premiere at the 49th Telluride Film Festival, Women Talking was nominated for two Oscars at the 95th Academy Awards: Best Film of the Year and Best Adapted Screenplay. Written and directed by Canadian filmmaker Sarah Polley, the film is based on the novel of the same name by Canadian writer Miriam Toews. A finalist for the Governor General’s Award, The Trillium Book Award, and longlisted for the International Dublin Literary Award, this 2018 novel was written in response to the horrific events that took place in the Manitoba Colony, a remote and isolated Mennonite community in Bolivia. Interpreted by Toews as “a figment of the female imagination”. The cast of the movie, which consists of stars names; Rooney Mara, Claire Foy, Jessie Buckley, Frances McDormand, Judith Ivey, Emily Mitchell, Kate Hallett, Liv McNeil, Sheila McCarthy, Michelle McLeod, Kira Guloien, Shayla Brown, Vivien Endicott Douglas, August Winter, Lochlan Ray Miller, and Ben Whishaw.


In the production, which focuses on issues such as patriarchal power, violence against women and gender inequality, the victimization of women who have been deprived of their freedom and their heartbreaking helplessness in the face of persecution is brought to the screen. Lebanese-French poet and writer Vénus Khoury-Ghata, set in a dark Soviet Russia, The Last Days of Mandelstam is an impressive novel written in a poetic style. Russian poet Osip Mandelstam says; “The worst of deaths is the death of thought.” the writer Ghata emphasizes and conveys to the reader that Mandelstam specifically mentions this death in his poems. In Women Talking, we see that the concepts of thought and hope are what keep the characters alive, and we understand once again how important they are while watching the movie. Director Sarah Polley explained that they played around with saturation levels to create of “a world that had faded in the past” and notes that while the film looks almost black and white, it doesn’t quite look like it.


The movie is based on real events; It focuses on the women of the community who have been left pregnant, maimed, or dead after years of drug, sexual, and terrorized attacks by the elders of a remote religious colony. These attacks, which are based on ghosts and demons, show the audience in all their nakedness that this brutality is ruthlessly covered up by making them believe that women are punished by God or Satan for their sins. As criminals sentenced by the courts to long terms begin to get out of jail, women meet in the barn to determine a plan of action. This is where the whole event takes place; women seeking a way out raise their voices to vote and discuss options. In the dialogues here, we see that women who are victims of patriarchal violence (trying to survive) in the male-dominated world and the concepts of Mizogyny, or hatred and prejudice against women, emerged in this sense, are underlined.


One of the great masters of medieval aesthetics and semiotics, Italian scientist and philosopher Umberto Eco‘s book, Inventing The Enemy, is shown as one of the most important thought texts of the 20th century. In this book, the lecture, which was presented at the University of Bologna within the framework of the evenings on the Classics, titled “Building the Enemy” gives place. In this text, Eco; “Having an enemy is important not only for defining our identity, but also for establishing a barrier to measure our own value system and demonstrating our own worth while facing that obstacle.” He makes a philosophical interpretation of evil by saying. In the film, we see that women who are victims come to a decision by measuring and discussing their own value systems in the face of their enemies, and in this way, they set out on a new path.


– Throughout filming, the cast was advised not to put on make-up and shave until wrapping.

Claire Foy was asked to have glued additional hairs to her eyebrows, because her natural (non-plucked) was considered too modern-looking.

– Although inspired by events that took place in Bolivia, the film never reveals its location. It is kept ambiguous, as the characters speak English with a Standard Canadian English accent throughout the film, however the Southern Cross-primarily visible in the southern hemisphere-is used as a navigation point.

– Although many Mennonite communities are less restrictive than the one depicted in this movie, the actual colony on which this movie is based (the Manitoba Mennonite community in Bolivia) is ultraconservative: unlike some other Mennonite groups, they do not allow electricity, telephones, or automobiles. Like the women in the movie, the women in the real-life Manitoba colony are not allowed to learn to read.

– The choice of the song “Daydream Believer” has a thematic meaning: it references a sleepy woman (“sleepy Jean”) emerging from a reverie; this movie’s subject is woman who have been attacked in their (drugged) sleep and are emerging from a nightmare.


Although the novel focuses on real events that took place in the Mennonite colony between 2005 and 2009, no location is specified in the film version. In addition, the director makes a magnificent comment by not showing the faces of the male members of the colony, which are shown as monsters for women. However, we see a kindhearted man named August, who keeps the minutes of the meetings the women meet in the barn and make plans. This character tells us that not all men are bad, ignorance and unconsciousness can be eliminated through education. And he conveys that the young male members of the colony can become decent citizens by being educated. How powerful the message given here is and how important it is in social life, the audience is repeatedly made to feel throughout the film.

Based on true events, Women Talking is an impressive and touching production that will keep drama lovers stunned for a long time.



Umberto Eco, Düşman Yaratmak (Inventing The Enemy), translate. Leyla Tonguç Basmacı, İstanbul: Doğan Kitap press, 2014

Vénus Khoury-Ghata, Mandelştam’ın Son Günleri (The Last Days of Mandelstam), translate. Ayşenaz Cengiz, İstanbul: Yapı Kredi Yayınları press, 2020






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