"Why does love — absence of love, the end of love, the need for love — result in so much violence?"
That enormous question, asked by Rooney Mara, opens the trailer for Sarah Polley's Women Talking. Based on the best-selling 2018 novel of the same name by Miriam Toews, the film follows a group of Mennonite women who have experienced systemic sexual assaults by the men in their community. The women meet in a hay loft to discuss what their response should be: Do they stay and forgive the men who committed the heinous acts? Or do they leave the only home they've ever known for an unknown future?
"When I read Miriam Toews’ book, it sunk deep into me, raising questions and thoughts about the world I live in that I had never articulated," Polley says in her director's statement. "Questions about forgiveness, faith, systems of power, trauma, healing, culpability, community, and self-determination. It also left me bewilderingly hopeful."
The filmmaker (who earned an Oscar nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay with 2006's Away From Her) adapted the screenplay herself, with a cast that includes Claire Foy, Jessie Buckley, Judith Ivey and Frances McDormand, with Ben Whishaw as the man enlisted to take minutes for these women who cannot read nor write. Watch the trailer below.
MGM also released a behind-the-scenes featurette looking at the making of the movie, with McDormand (who plays Scarface Janz) praising the work of both the author and her director. "Miriam and Sarah built a story that is thought-provoking and unifying," the three-time Oscar winner says.
Though Women Talking tackles difficult topics through a unique lens, Polley approached the film as "an act of wild female imagination." "We are living in a time where there’s a lot we have to change," she explains. "This film offers a window into what it looks like when people have to imagine another way forward."
The last line of the trailer echoes that notion, as Mara's character muses, "When we've liberated ourselves, we will have to ask ourselves who we are."
Women Talking premiered during this year's Telluride Film Festival and also screened at TIFF (where it was first runner-up for the People's Choice Award) and the New York Film Festival. It opens in select theaters on December 2 and nationwide on December 25.