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Women Talking - Everything You Need To Know

Warning: This article contains discussions of sexual abuse.

The year 2022 produced a handful of truly powerful dramas, from the horrors-of-war tale "All Quiet on the Western Front" to the rise-and-fall story of "Tár." But perhaps none were quite so powerful as "Women Talking." Based on the novel of the same name by Miriam Toews, "Women Talking" earned an Oscar nomination for best picture and best adapted screenplay and focuses on eight women in an isolated Mennonite group who must contend with their faith in the wake of certain revelations about their community.

The film received a limited U.S. release on December 23, 2022, before going wide on January 20, 2023. And while it might not have gotten as much of the spotlight as fellow 2022 titles like "The Whale" and "Everything Everywhere All at Once," it definitely deserves to stand alongside its fellow Oscar noms. But if you've never seen this amazing film, what do you need to know about the movie before seeking it out? Well, from its incredible cast to its equally talented director, here's everything you need to know about "Women Talking."

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 also in secular institutions. 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. As the official synopsis explains, "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.'"

Who stars in Women Talking?

"Women Talking" is an incredibly important story that needs to be told sensitively. And when you have to convey deep emotions and serious issues, you need a truly talented cast. Fortunately, "Women Talking" shines in this department, with a line-up that includes veterans and rising stars alike.

For example, coming off her Oscar-winning performance in "Nomadland," Frances McDormand stars as Scarface Janz. She's accompanied by Tony-winning Judith Ivey as Agata. On the younger side of things, you've got three powerful actresses with Rooney Mara ("The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo"), Claire Foy ("The Crown"), and Jessie Buckley ("Men") as Ona, Salome, and Mariche, respectively.

Ben Whishaw of "Paddington" fame also stars in the film as a schoolteacher, alongside other talented names like Sheila McCarthy and Michelle McLeod. In other words, "Women Talking" features an incredible ensemble cast that's more than equal to the heavy story at hand.

Who directed Women Talking?

"Women Talking" is directed by Canadian actor and filmmaker Sarah Polley. If you recognize that name, it's possibly because Polley previously earned an Oscar nod 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.

How are critics and audiences responding to Women Talking?

"Women Talking" earned two Oscar nods at the 95th Academy Awards — one for best picture and one for best adapted screenplay. With the Hollywood industry loving it so much, it should come as no surprise that critics have also praised the film. The drama currently has a 90% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 219 reviews. So what did critics like about Sarah Polley's drama?

Well, Looper's own Audrey Fox had this to say about "Women Talking:" "With a focus on monologuing, 'Women Talking' does right by all of its performers. They are a true ensemble cast, stepping forward at some points and gracefully moving out of the way at others, giving each woman an opportunity to make her mark on the film. ... Claire Foy and Jessie Buckley in particular make the most of their moments, capturing the rage, determination, and vulnerability of women attempting to protect themselves and their children in a world where their options are devastatingly limited."

Amy Nicholson of FilmWeek backed up this assertion, writing that "Women Talking" is "a film with so much depth and, of course, one of the greater casts you'll see this year." Beth Webb of Empire concurred, saying, "A remarkable ensemble of performers unite for this combustible, timely chamber-piece that hails the return of Polley as an ambitious and empirical filmmaker." And while audiences weren't quite as enraptured by the movie, "Women Talking" does boast a 79% audience approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

How did Women Talking perform at the box office?

Needless to say, "Women Talking" didn't crush it at the box office. Of course, you can't really compare the earnings of an arthouse drama about sexual assault to the latest MCU offering. However, even for a movie in this particular style, "Women Talking" had a bumpy start. The movie had its limited opening in eight theaters and earned just $41,000 (via Deadline). Of course, it might not have been the best idea to release this particular film just days before Christmas. Plus, it initially only opened in major cities like New York, which were plagued by some serious weather. Fortunately, over time, the movie picked up steam. It had a wider release in January and was nominated for a couple of Oscars, boosting the film's overall cume to $3.4 million worldwide.

What is Women Talking rated?

While ratings can be controversial, they can also be informative and tell us what to expect regarding a film's darker subject matter. But interestingly, despite the frank and powerful discussions of sexual abuse in the film, "Women Talking" doesn't carry an R rating — unlike the similar "She Said," also released in 2022. Instead, "Women Talking" is rated PG-13 for "mature thematic content including sexual assault, bloody images, and some strong language" (via FilmRatings.com).

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).