More than a decade after she last directed a feature, actor-turned-filmmaker Sarah Polley's latest film Women Talking arrives in UK cinemas today – on the back of receiving an Oscar nomination for Best Picture.


The film is based on Miriam Toews's 2018 novel of the same name and follows the detailed discussions between a group of women living in an isolated religious colony after it emerges the men in their community have been drugging and raping them for several years.

Throughout their conversations, the women debate whether they should stay in the colony and do nothing, stay and fight back, or leave the colony altogether. By the end of the film, they have reached a consensus that they have no choice but to leave, although it's left unclear what happens to the various characters after they go ahead with this plan.

With that in mind, put this question to some of the film's cast, with Jessie Buckley – who plays Meriche in the film – revealing she has "no idea where the women go afterwards".

"I think that was the best thought to have, like it takes so much courage to step into an unknown," she added. "There's no bow that's tying up these women to ride off into the utopia in their horse and cart. And to have that courage to actually leave something that they've always known and go somewhere that they have never been before, in themselves and physically, was much more interesting."

She continued: "But actually what has been so interesting as the film has come out and been at different festivals and stuff, at different Q&As... I feel like where they're going next is actually how people are responding to this film."

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Meanwhile, Ben Whishaw – who plays August, a school teacher and the only man present during the women's discussions – said he was equally unsure as to the fate of his character at the end of the film.

“I feel like I've no idea what happens to him," he said. "I don't know – we did shoot another ending... so there's an ending that I have in my mind that's not the ending, but I don't know what happens to him. But I feel hope for him. I definitely feel that.”

Hope is something that Polley said was very important to get across in her film, explaining that she believed Toews's novel offered readers an "off-ramp for grief and rage".

"In terms of our conversation in a contemporary way, we've done a lot in the last few years of identifying the harms," she explained. "And I think that's been incredibly important work.

"[But] I think a lot of us have been looking for an off-ramp for that grief and rage or something to do with it, in terms of a way forward or thinking about what it is we'd like to build that might look different.

"And I feel like what Miriam created in this book is this conversation that offers a window into what it might look like to work in a community to find a better way forward."

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Meanwhile, another of the film's stars, Claire Foy, identified what it was about Polley's script that made it so "unique" to her – revealing that it felt different to other scripts she'd read both in terms of structure and content.

"Structurally it was very different to me," she said. "There was obviously lots of stage directions, and you've got lots of pastoral scenes, and you knew what the camera would be doing and things like that. But it was the amount of dialogue that was in it, but also how the dialogue was articulated.

"The way these women speak is very particular and it's an inherited language that they have from the men in the colonies, so it's not really their own language about how they would choose to express themselves, which in itself leaves it slightly off-kilter, I suppose."

Ben Whishaw as August, Rooney Mara as Ona and Claire Foy as Salome in Women Talking.
Ben Whishaw as August, Rooney Mara as Ona and Claire Foy as Salome in Women Talking. Orion Pictures/Michael Gibson

She continued: "But it was big, and I was reading it going, 'Whoa, OK, keep on going through...' and it wasn't because it was salacious or in some way really dramatic. It was so honest, and so clear, and it pulled no punches. And it wasn't trying to be anything other than what it was.

"And I feel like a lot of the time you read things that are trying to be something else continually. And that honesty is very, very rare. And so that's what made it unique.

"As a female actor, I had not read anything where there were women talking in that way so significantly, and it was being dealt with in a significant way, as opposed to being brushed under the carpet, I suppose."

Women Talking is now showing in UK cinemas. Visit our TV Guide and Streaming Guide or visit our Film hub for more news and features.


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