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Tag: Jessie Buckley

QuickView: Women Talking (2022)

“When we have liberated ourselves, we will have to ask ourselves who we are.”


Sarah Polley’s adaptation of Miriam Toews’ novel is a dour but moving experience, its desaturated melancholy swallowed by heavy blacks. Toews described her novel as an “imagined response to real events”, chronicling the women in an isolated rural religious community deciding whether to stay or leave after a series of rapes come to light — for women with no voice, merely making a decision for themselves becomes an act of defiance. Polley’s direction is restrained, not showing the violence but instead alluding to it through repeated recollections of the bloodstained aftermath. Women Talking feels theatrical in both the constraints of its hayloft setting and its near-exclusive reliance on dialogue. Rooney Mara, Jessie Buckley and Claire Foy all excel in voicing varied aspects of the group’s response — thoughtful, angry, and fearful of change — though there is a definite artificiality to the debate with actors representing ideas more than fully rounded characters. Hildur Guðnadóttir’s gentle score colours scenes with a simple melody that coils itself around you, squeezing a little too tight. The biggest change in Polley’s script is a perspective shift: the book is narrated by August, a gentle man who attends the discussion to take minutes, and apparently Ben Whishaw recorded substantial voiceover before it was decided that this did not work in a cinematic medium. Instead, the voiceover — more commentary than narration — comes from the youngest of the girls, speaking to a child some time in the future. It further mutes Whishaw’s meek performance (“I want to help and I don’t know how”), but that is appropriate within an intentionally female space. Women Talking perhaps arrives a little too late in the #MeToo era and it asks rather than answers questions, but it is engrossing and thoughtful in its consideration of structural issues and religious belief without judgement.


QuickView: Men (2022)

“What is it that you want from me?”


Alex Garland’s latest film crafts impeccably tense atmosphere in an isolated English village, with its unusually verdant palette of bold greens and blacks distinguishing it visually from the horror pack. Jessie Buckley plays Harper, a woman escaping to the countryside after a personal tragedy, but finds herself being harassed by a stranger. Whilst it begins with the unease of being alone in an unknown place, particularly as a woman, as the title suggests Garland uses this to examine the female experience of being subjected to various demands of men: to stay with them, to entertain them, to take advice from them or to fear them. Men’s subject matter is primed for a post #MeToo world, though its metaphor becomes rather blunt by the end, like a priest who overtly blames Harper for his own thoughts. Rory Kinnear is astounding in a role that requires considerable range, whilst Jessie Buckley’s performance captures the caged need to scream as a release, a parallel to Anya Taylor-Joy’s role in The Menu depicting female anger precipitating in an outburst rather than the common depiction of subdued silence. Men succeeds more on atmosphere than depth, and its grotesque conclusion may not be to all tastes, but it is frequently thrilling nonetheless.


QuickView: The Courier (2020)

“I’m sorry it has to be you. But Greville, it has to be you.”

Oleg Penkovsky

A cold war spy thriller that itself feels like a throwback to the likes of Le Carré, The Courier succeeds because it trusts the slow burn tension of its script to hold the audience’s attention without the need for superfluous action. Cumberbatch is excellent as the businessman Greville Wynne, recruited by MI6 to help infiltrate the Soviet nuclear programme, his superficial salesman’s charm developing into a genuine and more relatable affection for GRU defector Oleg Penkovsky. Much of the tension arises from the fact Wynne is not some suave superspy but an amateur who knows he is woefully out of his depth. The Courier unfolds against the backdrop of the Cuban Missile Crisis and trusts the audience to be sufficiently aware of its importance whilst the film’s focus is more personal — its overarching theme is the personal cost of conflicting loyalties. It is peppered with thoughtful visual choices like the two trips to the ballet — in the first, during Greville’s first, nerve-wracking introduction to Moscow, we never see the stage but only see Greville and Penkovsky’s faces in the darkened theatre; in the second, we see Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake performed to symbolise Penkovsky’s contemplation of his imminent abandonment of his homeland.


QuickView: The Lost Daughter (2021)

The Lost Daughter poster

“I am an unnatural mother.”


Olivia Colman delivers a powerfully understated performance in Maggie Gyllenhaal’s directorial debut, a moody character exploration of a woman’s troubled past, which rises to the surface during a beach holiday alone. Colman is initially charming as the academic Leda, lonely and awkward as she can be, but this gradually wears away over the film’s two hours as we glimpse something darker beneath. With its structure hinting at a mystery, Gyllenhaal’s script leaves some motivations deliberately (if frustratingly) vague, but it is through seeing Jessie Buckley play Leda as a young mother that we recognise more overtly impulsive and selfish characteristics that are veiled⁠ — yet still present ⁠— in Colman’s performance. Through the family Leda meets on the beach, The Lost Daughter casts its net wider in addressing the societal expectations placed on young mothers in contrast to the harsh reality of parenting and the inescapable resentment and regret at lost opportunity despite love for one’s children.


"A film is a petrified fountain of thought."

(CC) BY-NC 2003-2023 Priyan Meewella

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