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Women Talking - What We Know So Far

Warning: This article contains discussions of sexual abuse.

The fall film festivals are oftentimes a reliable guide to the most highly anticipated movies yet to make their theatrical or streaming debuts. "Women Talking," a drama directed by Sarah Polley, had its premiere at the Telluride Film Festival in September 2022. With a critical score of 88% on Rotten Tomatoes and an 80 on Metacritic, it was met with immediate acclaim from most critics and viewers upon its debut.

"Women Talking" was adapted from the 2018 novel of the same name by Miriam Toews. The novel, inspired by her own experiences in the Mennonite community, follows eight women in an isolated Mennonite group who must contend with their faith and experiences in the wake of certain revelations about their community.

For fans of Polley, the novel, or the actors in the cast, here's everything we know so far about "Women Talking."

When will Women Talking be released?

So when can general audiences expect to see "Women Talking"? As is typical of films in the awards conversation, potential viewers can look forward to a theatrical debut before it arrives on any streaming platform. The latter information is not yet available at this point, but fortunately, we have more than enough details on when the film will be arriving in theaters.

"Women Talking," which will be released by revamped distributor United Artists Releasing, will have a limited release in the U.S. on December 2, 2022, presumably with an expansion throughout the month. A worldwide rollout of the film will follow shortly after, arriving in Canada on December 16, 2022, and in the United Kingdom on February 10, 2023 (via IMDb). Following its debut at the Telluride Film Festival, the movie got an international premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), and screenings at the New York Film Festival (NYFF) and 2022 AFI Fest.

What is the plot of Women Talking?

"Women Talking" has elicited necessary conversation around sexual abuse and female oppression, one that extends beyond just the abuses that happen within religious groups, but in secular institutions broadly. As adapted from Miriam Toews' 2018 novel, the film follows eight women in an isolated Mennonite colony who are awakened to certain truths about the men in the community — namely, that the men have been drugging and raping them. The official synopsis from TIFF reads, "Reeling from multiple counts of sexual abuse, newly uncovered within their Mennonite colony, a group of women gather in a hayloft to discuss how to respond. While the men are away, the women narrow their options down to three: do nothing, stay and fight, or leave."

While the film is critical of patriarchy and male oppression, it is also sensitive to religious faith and individual experiences. "Some fear that any act of defiance will jeopardize their entry into heaven, while others believe they cannot survive without husbands and sons. Some are willing to take any measures to escape the terror of their domestic lives and insist that 'the truth is stronger than the rules,'" the synopsis finishes.

Who is starring in Women Talking?

For such an important story that must be sensitively told, director Sarah Polley assembled a large and notable cast for her film, including awards veterans and rising stars alike. Coming off of her Oscar-winning lead performance in "Nomadland" and 2021's acclaimed "The Tragedy of Macbeth," Frances McDormand stars in the film as Scarface Janz, while Tony-winning Judith Ivey stars as Agata. But the bulk of the awards hype thus far has belonged to the younger cast, including Rooney Mara as Ona, Claire Foy as Salome, and Jessie Buckley as Mariche. The majority of the cast was announced in late 2020 and in June 2021 before filming commenced in time for its 2022 premiere.

While these women's names are the most recognizable, the film's ensemble is large and extensive, including men and several children as well. Ben Whishaw also stars in the film as a schoolteacher, alongside others in the ensemble cast such as Sheila McCarthy as Greta and Michelle McLeod as Mejal.

Who directed Women Talking?

"Women Talking" is directed by Canadian actor and filmmaker Sarah Polley. Her achievements in the film have thrust her into the Academy Awards conversation for Best Director, as well as the film in Best Picture. Polley was previously Academy Award-nominated for her screenplay in her feature film directorial debut "Away from Her," starring Julie Christie as a woman developing Alzheimer's. She also received critical acclaim for her documentary "Stories We Tell," which chronicled her own revelations of some of her family's long-kept secrets.

Polley is also an actor and prolific writer beyond the projects she directs. In her native Canada, she starred as the title character in a TV series adaptation of Beverly Cleary's Ramona Quimby books. The list of notable films and TV series she's starred in include "The Sweet Hereafter," "The Weight of Water," "Dawn of the Dead," "John Adams," and "Mr. Nobody."

Polley is also a social activist and has participated in a number of protests for several causes. Notably, in 2017, Polley wrote an op-ed for The New York Times detailing her own experience as a woman in Hollywood and her encounters with Harvey Weinstein.

Is there a trailer for Women Talking?

The emotional trailer for "Women Talking" was released on October 10, 2022, and provided a first look at what general audiences can expect from the film, including glimpses of the standout performances, score, direction, and cinematography.

"Why does love, the absence of love, the end of love, the need for love, result in so much violence?" Rooney Mara's Ona asks over the opening shots of the trailer, hinting at some of the overriding themes of the film. Hildur Guðnadóttir's evocative score creates a haunting and stirring atmosphere, set over scenes of a rural community disconnected from the modern world. The color palette is desaturated, even dark in places, as Luc Montpellier's cinematography invokes the themes of Toews' novel.

But naturally, everyone is curious about the acting performances, and the nearly two-minute trailer shows why several from the ensemble are in the awards conversation. Claire Foy's Salome seems to be defiant and determined, as she discusses with the other women how they should be handling their situation. Meanwhile, Ona seems to be more wistful, reflective, and wise. "When we've liberated ourselves, we'll have to ask ourselves who we are," Mara's voice says over the final shots of the trailer.

What will Women Talking be rated?

While ratings can be controversial for a number of reasons, they can also be informative, and tell us what to expect regarding the darker subject matter of a film. Yet, despite the frank and powerful discussions of sexual abuse in the film, "Women Talking" does not carry an R rating. According to IMDb, "Women Talking" has received a PG-13 rating from the MPAA. The rating lists "mature thematic content including sexual assault, bloody images, and some strong language" as its reasoning.

This is potentially good news, for it means younger individuals might be able to view the film and engage with the topic in a way that is sensitively handled. "Women Talking" is in line with a number of films in recent years that expose abuse across different institutions, while depicting how those institutions are predicated upon oppression and cover-ups of wrongdoings. Interestingly, a number of these films, like Best Picture winner "Spotlight," for example, went on to receive R-ratings from the MPAA.

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).