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Essential Reading - Screenplays and Pilots

Women Talking – Screenplay

By March 14, 2023No Comments

Women Talking is a quiet movie. A sort of gender-flipped 12 Angry Men, writer/director Sarah Polley’s film (based on Miriam Toews’ novel) observes a group of Mennonite women as they debate what to do about predatory men in their community. Should they stay and forgive, stay and fight, or flee and chart their own path separate from the men? Eleven women meet in a hayloft to discuss their options and decide for the rest.

Appropriately for something called Women Talking, the movie is mostly dialogue-driven to the point that it almost feels like a stage play at times. Flashbacks add an occasional cinematic flare, filling in the necessary backstory, but conversations drive the narrative. There are no action-driven set pieces or anything of the sort—just women talking—but the stakes are as high as any blockbuster, and for the women at its center, the consequences are equally as perilous. The titular women—led by a cast that includes Rooney Mara, Claire Foy, Jessie Buckley, Judith Ivey, and Sheila McCarthy—have been tasked with reaching a decision for the entire group, a task that seems increasingly impossible as their conversation rolls on.

There is something masterful about the screenplay (which won one of the writing awards at this year’s Oscars). Each woman has her own opinions, philosophies, wants, needs, desires, and the group must navigate their conflicting interests. But the ways they disagree are often subtle and rooted in character. Their opinions shift over the night as they’re persuaded by different arguments. They are living, breathing, three-dimensional characters trying to navigate a fraught situation with three equally impossible solutions (at least, in their minds). However, the film isn’t as dour or self-serious as the above might suggest. Polley injects just enough humor and levity into the script to not only cut through some of the tension but also endear the characters to the audience and one another. These women care deeply about each other, and you can’t help but feel the warmth of their relationships, even when they argue and vehemently disagree.

For a movie with such a somber subject matter, it truly is a marvel how warm the movie feels. Its brilliance slowly sneaks up on you, and the end result is a subtle, intelligent, and riveting masterpiece from a filmmaker at the top of her game.

Read Women Talking

Michael Owens is a screenwriter from Long Beach, California, and graduated from the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts with a degree in screenwriting. As a writer, Michael tends to pair contemporary themes with character-driven stories and an off-kilter sense of humor, and he currently reviews screenplays and other creative material for Pipeline Media Group as a Senior Development Executive.