These actors reside the fury, grief, resolve of ‘Women Talking’

As “Women Talking” begins, it’s found {that a} group of males in an remoted spiritual colony have drugged and raped the ladies and women in the neighborhood. The rapists have been arrested; the remainder of the lads have taken the lengthy journey into city to bail them out, anticipating — nay, demanding — that the ladies forgive them and proceed with life because it was. Collectively, the ladies agree that isn’t an choice. A choose variety of them collect within the hayloft to resolve whether or not to remain and combat for change, or depart the one world they know, whereas the viewers bears witness to their fury, grief and resolve.

Director Sarah Polley tailored the movie from Miriam Toews’ e-book of the identical title, loosely primarily based on a real story. Polley fills the hayloft with an array of stars, together with Claire Foy, Rooney Mara, Jessie Buckley, Sheila McCarthy and Judith Ivey.

The movie, which opened Christmas week, mercifully by no means reveals a rape scene; the assaults are hinted at because the survivors awaken to blood and ache. “And how powerful it is not to see those scenes, just to see the aftermath,” McCarthy says through Zoom from her residence in Toronto. “It’s the conversation that matters, not the actual graphic part. The movie begins in the process of healing, and that’s what it should be.” She and Ivey play the elders of two households, their religion lending a delicate energy to the proceedings.

When Polley first approached McCarthy to play Greta, she voiced concern concerning the actor’s youthful vitality. “I said, ‘I will tamp down my enthusiasm,’” McCarthy remembers, earlier than noting that it’s simple for her to neglect she’s 66. “I feel like I’m 8 years old and my underwear is showing, still,” she jokes, her pixie haircut paying homage to her breakout function within the 1987 indie movie “I’ve Heard the Mermaids Singing.” McCarthy says “The lesson for me as Greta was listening and picking my moments to be listened to. Greta also provides the comic relief, if you can say such a thing, and I adored exploring that.”

Sheila McCarthy, entrance left, stars with Jessie Buckley within the Sarah Polley movie “Women Talking.”

(Michael Gibson/Orion Releasing)

The shoot passed off in Toronto over the summer season of 2021. Not like most productions, “We were on set all day, every day,” McCarthy says. “We all spent three months in that hayloft talking. Boy, oh boy, we had to show up with our A-game every day. This was a very unusual theatrical commitment from all of us. It was like a Broadway run.”

Talking by telephone from her Nantucket residence, Ivey agrees. “It’s what I love when I’m acting,” says the two-time Tony winner. “I’ve always kind of struggled with film, because the scenes are so short, then it’s time to move on and you think, did I even have a character?” On this shoot, one 11-page scene took three days and 120 takes. “It was joyous because there were eight, nine, 10 people in it, and we got to do it over and over and over and over again.”

In creating her character, Agata, Ivey says, “I have to give all credit to Sarah Polley — from scene to scene, take to take, moment to moment, her general note to me was: ‘You can just simply do it; you can just simply say it. Make it simpler.’ These women are complex, but they’re not complicated.” She additionally turned to the reminiscence of her grandmother, a girl who approached life with nice enthusiasm.

Ivey has since discovered herself incorporating a few of Agata’s qualities. “I found it rewarding to play somebody who has that kind of patience. It’s very much in my consciousness now as Judy walking around: Am I not being patient? Am I being demanding, am I being critical, am I being judgmental, when I really should just sit back and let it be? It was very revelatory.”

She and McCarthy bonded instantly, “and not just because of our ages, but we’re both from the theater first,” Ivey says. “One day we discovered we had at least 50 people in common.” Provides McCarthy, “I’m so sad she lives so far away from me, because I would be knocking on her door and seeing her every single day of my life if I could. She’s a funny, wonderful, wry person.”

The ladies had no concept how the movie would prove till they noticed it. After which, McCarthy says, “I thought, ‘God, I look 170.’ I had to watch it again to see anybody but myself.” Ivey notes that in the course of the shoot, when “we had to be the plain Janes, with little if any makeup, and our kerchiefs and polyester dresses and socks and sandals, I told Sheila, ‘I don’t know if this is stupid or brave of us,’ and she said, ‘Don’t think about it. When we go to the festivals, we’re going to wear lots of makeup and sparkly dresses.’”

They’ve had loads of alternatives. “A lot of movies you make, you don’t ever really see anybody again,” Ivey says. “With the success of this film and how welcomed it has been by all these movie festivals — I’ve been to nine of them — you get to see everybody again and again. We were joking that it’s a high school reunion every two or three weeks. I think everybody in the end was a big fan of each other, because we had gone through this very momentous piece together, and you did not want to falter for a second, mostly out of admiration for what everyone was bringing to the table. It’s unfortunate that it’s a rare experience, but how great that it happened, particularly with a piece that said so much.”

McCarthy agrees, ending on a Greta-like word of religion. “It was like we were singing a long hymn.”