Writer/director Sarah Polley is directing an adaptation of Miriam Toews’ bestselling novel Women Talking, which now has an extensive cast complete with seasoned actors, as well as some fresh faces.
MGM’s Orion Pictures and Plan B Entertainment have cast Claire Foy, Jessie Buckley, Rooney Mara, and Ben Whishaw alongside powerhouse Frances McDormand, who joined the film last year. Newcomers August Winter, Liv McNeil, and Kate Hallett are also filling out the cast with their feature film debuts.
Deadline has the news of the new casting for the film, which is based on the best-selling novel of the same name by Miriam Toews and “follows a group of women in an isolated religious colony as they struggle to reconcile their faith with a series of sexual assaults committed by the colony’s men.” Published in 2018, Toews’ novel was named a Best Book of the Year by The New York Times Book Review, NPR.Org, The Washington Post, Time, and others.
The additions of Claire Foy and Rooney Mara, in particular, are exciting decisions because both actresses have tackled this kind of harrowing subject matter before. In Steven Soderbergh’s 2018 film Unsane, Foy brilliantly played a young woman who is relentlessly stalked and gaslit by the very medical professionals she thought she could trust. Mara also gave a stunning performance as Lisbeth Salander in The Girl with The Dragon Tattoo, where she took brutal revenge upon her abuser. Her performance was powerful and memorable, earning her an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress.
Winters, McNeil, and Hallett all making their feature debut with Women Talking is a bold and celebratory choice. Given the sensitive subject matter, it’s comforting to know that female actresses are not necessarily playing it safe with their first feature.
Sarah Polley’s transition from actress to director seems like a perfect fit for working with these ladies as well. Many film fans know Polley from her lead role as Ana in Dawn of the Dead, but she later earned an Oscar nomination for her first feature screenplay Away From Her, which she also directed. Polley’s natural talent and ability to translate emotion on screen and lean into subversive techniques makes Women Talking all the more enticing.
Survivors on Screen
Women Talking sounds like it could be an intense experience, and potentially triggering for some. With the recent success of Emerald Fennell’s Promising Young Woman, I’m hopeful that survivor stories will continue the conversation on sexual assault and bring about awareness. The female characters in Women Talking will hopefully have some complex layers since religion and notions of violation will be so heavily involved. I can also imagine the gaslighting to be almost cult-like as well.
Of course, I’m also really excited about Frances McDormand being on board, because few perfomers capture pain and strength so beautifully. The film’s title truly speaks volumes – in order to continue fighting for change, women need to keep talking.
A production start date has not been decided yet, but the movie is expected to be released theatrically through MGM’s United Artists Releasing branch.
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