In Women Talking, eight women who have suffered abuse within their Mennonite community gather to discuss whether to fight back, leave, or to stay and do nothing. The film is based on the book of the same name by Miriam Toews, who herself grew up in a Mennonite community, and was adapted for the screen by Sarah Polley.
Personally, I found the film to be beautiful, nuanced and graciously sensitive in a way that I think a lot of our general conversations—especially online—are not. All the women have each suffered some form of abuse and have different responses to it, opening the floor to a debate of sorts. However, the end objective for all parties is the same and the sisters gather round each other for support. I love that the story doesn’t just acknowledge that terrible things are happening but asks how it can be made better.
Women Talking sheds light on several things: how difficult it can be for people in abusive relationships to leave, especially those dependent on their abusers; what allyship looks like (shoutout to August Epp); pacifism vs revenge; if abusers are products of their environments and therefore themselves victims; forgiveness + what it looks like; and, in this case, the fear of eternal damnation if the victim is not as quick enough to forgive the abuser as God would like.
I really believe—and this should go without saying, but I find myself having to repeat it a lot—that people who have any form of authority/power in a situation are obligated to care for those with less. I think that’s a responsibility that comes with in any position of power but especially for those who claim to be people of faith. In Women Talking, the women (and Toews and Polley) challenge that misuse of power, that notion of God and that idea of forgiveness.
Women Talking is now playing at TIFF ’22. For screening information, click here.