Women Talking

      By Jinwei Li

A Delicate Film that Illustrates How Women Move Forward After Adversity

Women Talking is a film is about how a group of women with ideological differences find a way out that everyone is willing to accept through equal debate and empathetic negotiation. Its director Sarah Polley had already established herself as a master of telling a story from multiple perspectives with her previous film Stories We Tell, and in Women Talking, this ability lends itself well to creating a powerful narrative. Each woman in this film is distinctly characterized and fully fleshed-out, which makes each emotional beat all the more impactful. In this heartbreaking film, Polley illustrates how these women with starkly different personalities affected one another to make rational decisions for everyone's future.

What I appreciate most about this film is how the director depicts traumatic events. Typically, when sexual assault is referenced during a film, a director will explicitly depict it onscreen. However, in Women Talking, Sarah Polley doesn't show any scenes of that nature. Instead, she focuses on what’s important: how women deal with this trauma and move on with it. Directors who shoot sexually explicit scenes to attract attention should watch this film, because women’s experience of sexual assault is not an erotic symbol of voyeurism. You can write about their anger, direct their bravery, and film their resistance. However, if it is treated as a way to shock viewers, and especially if the sexual assault is directly filmed like a pornographic film, then the feminist point the film was attempting to make has been completely forsaken. Additionally, I appreciate that during the production of the film, Polley rewrote the script after listening to the experiences of the crew. She decided to add a scene of catharsis for the victims where they were apologized to. While this might just seem like a nice extra scene, many victims will never be able to hear these words. What they may need most is the validation that their experience was horrific and that they should never have had to go through something traumatic. It’s little efforts like these that demonstrate how much care was put into depicting a story with such sensitive subject matter.


The cast of Women Talking gives a masterclass in acting in what has to be one of the best ensembles of the year. They hold up the entire movie as they convincingly distinguish their respective characters and make the audience feel for every single one of them, no matter what their ideologies and personalities may be. The phenomenal acting from everyone anchors the film in something raw and emotional. The screenplay is great, but it is largely brought to life authentically thanks to the cast.

Regarding the controversy over the film's color grading, Polley described it as "the color tone of a faded postcard from a world that's already gone". The desaturated color grading gave the film a nostalgic, out-of-reality feeling. This is fitting for the themes of the film, as we are transported to a seemingly outdated time where basic rights for women were stripped. Yet in fact, the film takes place a mere decade ago, which leads to a cognitive dissonance that would be difficult to reconcile without this film’s purposeful aesthetic.

Heavy films like this must be made to remind us of the importance of those who struggle and persevere. I have no doubt that Women Talking will give many women the courage to stand up to injustice and finally make difficult choices that will ensure others will never have to go through what they do.