Interview by Paul Salfen
Do nothing. Stay and fight. Or leave. In 2010, the women of an isolated religious community grapple with reconciling a brutal reality with their faith.
Directed by: Sarah Polley
Screenplay by: Sarah Polley
Based upon the book by: Miriam Toews
Produced by: Dede Gardner, p.g.a., Jeremy Kleiner, p.g.a., Frances McDormand, p.g.a.
Executive Producers: Brad Pitt, Lyn Lucibello Brancatella, Emily Jade Foley
Cast: Rooney Mara, Claire Foy, Jessie Buckley, Judith Ivey, Sheila McCarthy, with Ben Whishaw and Frances McDormand
Rating: PG-13 for mature thematic content including sexual assault, bloody images, and some strong language
DIRECTOR’S STATEMENT: In Women Talking, a group of women, many of whom disagree on essential things, have a conversation to figure out how they might move forward together to build a better world for themselves and their children.
Though the backstory behind the events in Women Talking is violent, the film is not. We never see the violence that the women have experienced. We see only short glimpses of the aftermath. Instead, we watch a community of women come together as they must decide, in a very short space of time, what their collective response will be.
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. Questions about forgiveness, faith, systems of power, trauma, healing, culpability, community, and self-determination. It also left me bewilderingly hopeful.
I imagined this film in the realm of a fable. While the story in the film is specific to a small religious community, I felt that it needed a large canvas, an epic scope through which to reflect the enormity and universality of the questions raised in the film. To this end, it felt imperative that the visual language of the film breathe and expand. I wanted to feel in every frame the endless potential and possibility contained in a conversation about how to remake a broken world.
Sheila began her career at The Charlottetown Festival as a professional dancer working across the country in every major theatre including Soulpepper, Stratford, and Shaw Festivals. Sheila has directed and choreographed Sweet Charity, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, and Trapdoor at Sheridan College, Brighton Beach Memoirs at the Harold Green Theatre, Norm Foster’s Lunenburg in Orangeville, and most recently, a brand-new musical of Pinocchio at Young People’s Theatre by Brian Hill and Neil Bartram.She is a two-time Canadian Screen Award winner for I’ve Heard the Mermaids Singing (for which she also won the Charles Chaplin Award in Vevey, Switzerland, and the People’s Choice award at the Cannes Film Festival) and Lotus Eaters. She is also the recipient of two Canadian Television Awards for Sesame Street and Emily Of New Moon, as well as two Dora Mavor Moore Awards (Toronto Theatre awards) for Little Shop of Horrors and Really Rosie.Other highlights include Die Hard 2, Stepping Out with Liza Minnelli, Being Julia, The Day After Tomorrow, Virtual Mom (which she wrote and produced), I Was A Teenage Drama Queen, Picket Fences, Little Mosque on the Prairie, Orphan Black, Isobel, and Martins Hagge and Night Shoot both opposite Gordon Pinsent. McCarthy recently wrapped her first short film in the director’s chair, Russet Season, and starred in Little Black Dress, a film directed by her daughter, producer Mackenzie Donaldson. The independent Canadian feature Cardinals (Official selection at TIFF 2017) garnered her the 2018 ACTRA AWARD for Best Actress.Recent television credits include: Star Trek: Discovery, ABC’s The Good Doctor, Private Eyes (opposite William Shatner), a recurring arc on the hit Netflix show Umbrella Academy, and the Baroness Von Sketch Show. Recent features include Happy Place, Christmas Club, Broken Hearts Gallery, and The Middle Man, which premiered at TIFF 2021.