After The Married Woman and the spectacular Bombay Begums, this is the third film on Women’s Day that celebrates sexual love between two women, both unfortunately married to men whom they don’t love. You may say Deepa Mehta got there first in Fire. The fire in The World To Come burns much higher than in the other recent important films on lesbian relationships, Ammonite and Portrait Of A Lady On Fire. All three films share an affinity for nostalgia. The torrid same-sex relationship happens in the remote past in all three.
The World To Come takes us to the pristine unspoiled American prairies in the 1860s. Two couples Abigail and Dyer and Tallie and Finney live on neighbouring farms. The women are unhappy in their marriage. We can see that. The husbands can’t. Damn these self-serving husbands in these ladies picture shows!
To their credit, Casey Affleck and Christopher Abbott are eminently empathetic in their thankless roles. They aren’t exactly model husbands. Far from it. They have their blind spots. But they aren’t conveniently projected as brutes, and at least one of them is surprisingly tolerant of his wife's extra-marital liaison (just like Danish Hussain in Bombay Begums).
This austere but resplendent film shot in the fetching greenery and glacial winter of the wilderness with immense affection and sensitivity by cinematographer Andre Chemetoff has only four characters. In that sense, this is a classic character-study with the women getting to be centre stage in every sense.
The deep bonding between Abigail and Tallie is drawn out of the closet and hurled into the bedroom with a sweeping resonance that leaves no room for any kind of redemption or reconciliation. As the narrative hurls to its tragic conclusion we can sense the mood of doom hovering in the atmosphere. Katherine Waterston and especially Vanessa Kirby (she was a smashing success in the recent Pieces Of a Woman) bring an electrifying togetherness to their shared moments. When Tallie disappears we can actually feel Abigail’s suffering. No wonder she goes out searching for her lost love (with her resigned husband in tow) when Tallie vanishes one fine day leaving Abigail bereft and consolable.
Visually and emotionally nourishing, The World To Come has several heart-stopping moments of visual poetry. The shot compositions are bathed in angst. But the tone of narration remains remarkably restrained. This is what good cinema is about.
Directed by Mona Fastvold, The World To Come gets 3 and a half stars.
Image source: Medium