WOMEN TALKING*CUT TO THE CHASE*
NOTE: This spoiler was submitted by Jeremy
The film opens in 2010. A woman, Ona (Rooney Mara), wakes up and finds her thighs bruised and filled with blood, indicating she had been raped. A young girl’s voiceover narration begins by explaining that the women live in a Mennonite colony where it has been recently discovered that the men have been drugging the women with cow tranquilizers and have raped and abused them for years. One of the women, Salome (Claire Foy), attacks one of the men with a scythe. The attackers are arrested and taken to a nearby city, where they will return in two days time and issue the women an ultimatum – forgive them and remain in the colony, or be forced to leave the colony and be denied entry to the kingdom of Heaven.
The women hold a vote with their three options – do nothing, stay and fight, or leave the colony. The vote ultimately boils down to the latter two options. Nine of the colony’s women – Ona, Salome, Mariche (Jessie Buckley), Agata (Judith Ivey), Mejal (Michelle McLeod), Autje (Kate Hallett), Nietje (Liv McNeil), Greta (Sheila McCarthy), and Scarface Janz (Frances McDormand) – gather in the hayloft to form a decision by weighing the pros and cons of each option. They include one of the remaining men, August (Ben Whishaw), to be their census taker. August has romantic feelings for Ona and was allowed to return to the colony to be a teacher since his family was excommunicated. Salome is adamant about fighting while the others lean more towards leaving or forgiving the men.
Ona proposes that the women stay and form new rules with the men so that they may work together and establish new systems of education and religion for the young girls. Mariche and Greta dismiss this as a dream, and Mariche believes it is best to forgive the men. It is also debated just how guilty all of the men in the colony are, whether they committed the attacks or if they were simply complicit in allowing them to happen. When Agata states that the best thing would be for the men to leave, the women all share a long and hearty laugh.
Mejal and Autje watch as another remaining male, Melvin (August Winter), plays with the children. Melvin originally dressed as a woman, Nettie, until he was a victim of the attacks, so he cut his hair and dressed like a boy, and also took a vow of silence. His attack resulted in a pregnancy (implied to be done by his brother), and the baby’s life was short lived and said to have come out “not right”. Melvin is also in charge of looking after the children and warning the women of anything coming from the outside. Autje then goes to fetch water and speaks to August, regarding his mother, his place in the colony, and his love for Ona.
A van drives by the colony, playing “Daydream Believer” over the speakers. It is there to count the women for the 2010 census. This also alerts the women that Mariche’s husband Klaas (Eli Ham) is returning that evening to collect more bail money for the men. The women return to the hayloft for more discussion. When August tries to weigh in, Mariche coldly tells him to remain silent and listen, which Agata scolds her for. Salome’s 4-year-old daughter Miep (Emily Mitchell) comes in and complains about a pain (she was recently attacked). Salome holds Miep in her arms while the other women sing a hymn.
The women start to lean more towards leaving the colony, though they consider the emotional impact of leaving some of their brothers and teenage sons. During a break, August privately talks to Ona and offers to take care of her and her child, attempting to admit his feelings for her, but Ona states that while she appears to know, she does not wish to get married. She worries about the fate of her child if it stays in the colony.
When the women reconvene, they also acknowledge that they would not know where to go into the world, but August offers them a map. Ona appears more open to the idea of leaving, though Mejal suffers a panic attack when she thinks about her attack. Salome is still set on fighting as a means to protect Miep. Agata tells her daughters (Salome and Ona are sisters) to consider their views and faith as reasoning for their decisions, and Salome knows she would become a killer if she stays in the colony. Mariche is the only one who will not change her mind. Greta uses a story about her horses, Ruth and Cheryl, in her suggestion, since the horses once made it difficult for her to steer until she focused on the road ahead of her and felt safer, indicating her decision on leaving
Mariche snaps back at the other women for wanting to leave, going as far as to call Ona a whore. Salome hits back about what Mariche intends to do if Klaas attempts to attack her or her children again, but Mariche is angry because she had forgiven Klaas at Greta’s suggestion, and Greta apologizes for it. Mariche’s son Julius (Lochlan Miller) comes into the hayloft with a cherry pit in his nose, which ends up swaying Mariche since the cherries were brought from the city by Klaas. When asked by the women his opinion on the boys staying, he tells them that some of them are in need of an education to help them be more responsible for their thoughts and actions. Greta says that they need to bring boys under the age of 15, and August will remain to teach the other boys. When the women notice Klaas making a move, the women scramble to warn the rest of the women of their decision to leave.
The women gather everything that they can carry with them overnight. August shows Ona his map and shows her how to navigate by using the North Star.
At sunrise, the women meet in the hayloft. Mariche shows up with a black eye and sprained arm, which is explained as a result of Klaas being drunk and having caught Autje (his and Mariche’s daughter) sneaking in late. Mariche ended up telling Klaas of their plans but doesn’t think he will remember or believe her. Agata comforts her as the women sing another hymn. Melvin then comes up to indicate that Salome’s teenage son Aaron (Nathaniel McParland) has gone missing. When Salome finds him, she sprays him with tranquilizer to get him to go with her.
The women all start to make their departure and review their minutes written by August. Salome goes back to the hayloft to grab tools and weapons for defense. August hands her a gun, which he implies through weeping that he was going to use it on himself. Salome tells him not to do that, as he will do the best he can to teach the boys in the colony. She promises to see August again someday. He also says his farewell to Ona. The women then ride carriages out of the colony to begin a new life.
The last scene shows that the story was being narrated by Autje to Ona’s baby, promising that the child’s story will be much different than theirs.
In 2010, the women of a Mennonite colony discover that the men were drugging and raping them. The men are imprisoned in the city, but they give the women two days to decide to forgive their attackers, or be forced to leave the colony and be denied entry into the kingdom of Heaven.
Nine women - Ona, Salome, Mariche, Agata, Greta, Mejal, Autje, Nietje, and Scarface Janz - gather to debate their options, which are to stay and fight, or willingly leave. They have one remaining man, August, be their census taker. Salome is ready to fight to protect her daughter, while Mariche thinks it is best to stay, even if it means forgiving their attackers.
After heavy debating and arguing, the women decide that, for theirs and their children's safety, they must leave the colony, using a map from August to guide them into the rest of the world. The women take their children, plus most boys under 15, away with them in the hopes of starting a new life, while August stays behind to teach the remaining children.