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'The World to Come' (2020) Review: The Importance of Shared Feelings

I enjoy discussing films, analyzing them in detail, trying to understand the messages and present my point of view.

Katherine Waterston and Vanessa Kirby have great on-screen chemistry. | Bleecker Street

Katherine Waterston and Vanessa Kirby have great on-screen chemistry. | Bleecker Street

The World to Come tells the story of two women who face struggles living in American Northeast frontier in mid-19th century. Directed by Mona Fastvold, this period piece unfolds intimate and impactful story between these women who can also be seen as a collective portrait of many other women whose untold stories share similarities in terms of dealing with thе difficulties in that place and time in history.

Abigail (Katherine Waterston) lives in a remote farm with her husband Dyer (Casey Affleck). Both seems disconnected while occupied with their heavy daily activities.
A tragedy occurs as they lose their 4-year-old daughter, which seems to set them even more apart emotionally and physically.

Another married couple – Tallie (Vanessa Kirby) and Finney (Christopher Abbott) – comes to the scene and rents a nearby farm, which provokes Abigail’s interest and curiosity. Soon the two women meet and a friendship begins. They make full use of their free time during their meetings – sharing thoughts, experiences, expectations and marital problems in an honest, liberated way. Their friendship slowly grows into something beyond what they’ve been dreaming of – finding that missing piece of their souls, that completes them and gives meaning to their lives.

From the beginning we’re introduced to this solitary world, vividly illustrated by her enthralling narration.

The story is told from Abigail’s point of view. From the beginning we’re introduced to this solitary world, vividly illustrated by her enthralling narration. She writes her feelings every day in her journal. It’s like her own way of escaping the cold, grey routine by letting her imagination fill the pages with poetic thoughts. Everything she sees and feels, but can’t openly express, because of that missing person who can respond to thеse feelings. Softly spoken, almost whispering, Abigail shares with us her most intimate feelings, describing the nature of the flourishing relationship with Tallie and her everyday struggles.

Tallie is more free spirited and fearless when it comes to expressing her feelings.
It seems as if she’s never faced the challenges Abigail had. Still, she also feels trapped with her demanding husband. She longs for something more. Something meaningful which she cannot receive from him. She takes the initiative and feels she has the right key to Abigail’s true nature, but she’s aware that she should approach her very carefully, because what they have is very fragile.

On the contrary, the male characters are just the opposite in terms of showing emotions. Both have their own ways of dealing with their duties as husbands and farmers.

Dyer is quiet, withdrawn and calm. It feels like he needs his heavy chores to get him through the loss of their daughter. He is distant from Abigail and insecure when talking with her. He begins to feel as if Abigail avoids him, now with Tallie being around, but at the same time he feels that Abigail needs this new friendship, which is like a much needed change in her life. He shows understanding.

Finney is filled with quiet rage. He becomes more and more suspicious and jealous of his wife. His maliciousness and passive aggressive behavior comes as an inner barrier he put between himself and his wife. He’s aware of his shortcomings, but doesn't want to admit his weakness and incapability of giving Tallie the proper relation.

Happiness doesn't always come in agreement with reality.

While Abigail and Tallie’s relationship develops, a whole new world opens up.
A world that is not straightforward, which allows you to drift away from all the rules and restrictions. A world without limits.

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But happiness doesn't always come in agreement with reality, whose harsh and uncompromising ways causes a deep emotional wound into the two women.
It makes you question the chosen path – to take a leap into the unknown or conform to the known. How would you feel if you have seen the light and reached that high bright summit, just to fall back into the abyss? Would you wish you never had these moments so that you may be spared the pain and inner turmoil? One can agree that the ones who are indifferent to and ignorant of life’s opportunities never actually deal with these thoughts and fears. The less you know, the less you suffer. But both women don’t want to accept that their life is predetermined. They make the mutual decision to grasp the chance that fate gives them and experience a life where they could actually feel. Even with the pain that usually follows in life.

Mona Fastvold’s directing style is sure and graceful. She makes parallels with the human nature and the surroundings, which is character on its own. The contrast of inner feelings and the changing seasons – sometimes optimistic, like a blooming flower, filled with beauty and color; sometimes dreary and moody, as if your very existence slowly fades away. She directs the scenes between Abigail and Tallie with delicacy and elegance, balancing between dialogue and silence.

The writing is deep and meaningful, with nothing superfluous. The cinematography is beautiful. The scenery is like а painting. The contrast between the light and darkness is like a well-choreographed dance. The soundtrack is experimental and minimalistic, echoing hauntingly throughout the film.

It’s an exemplary performance of making a quiet and indrawn character rich and complete.

The standout is Katherine Waterston. She makes her presence felt throughout the film. You can see the ravaging emotions by her expression alone, as if she’s struggling to suppress them. All the nuances, all little changes in her mood when she’s around Tallie, or her husband, or when she’s alone. It’s an exemplary performance of making a quiet and indrawn character rich and complete. And of course – that soothing, humbling voice narration contributes to the overall impact.

Vanessa Kirby also gives a great performance making Tallie mysteriously charming and intriguing. The scenes between them are something special. The way they exchange glances, exploring each other; the tension and excitement, present in their body language – all that is truly breathtaking.

Both Casey Affleck and Christopher Abbott deliver subtle, memorable performances, without stealing the spotlight from the female leads, while at the same time hold their own demonstrating the importance of their characters for the story.

The World to Come is a beautiful, poignant movie. Delicate, tender, universal.
It shows the importance of shared feelings and how that can help you deal with pain and anguish. Of being broadminded, always searching and eager to learn.
Of having the necessary freedom, instead of being trapped to oblige the widely accepted paradigm. It’s a story of two women who find escapism in relationship that enriches and completes them. Both of them waiting for a better world to come.





Katherine Waterston, Vanessa Kirby, Christopher Abbott, and Casey Affleck

Directed by

Mona Fastvold

Produced by

Pamela Koffler, David Hinojosa, Casey Affleck, Whitaker Lader, Margarethe Baillou

Screenplay by

Ron Hansen and Jim Shepard

Based on „The World to Come“ by

Jim Shepard

Cinematography by

André Chemetoff

Production Design by

Jean-Vincent Puzos

Costumes by

Luminita Lungu

Edited by

Dávid Jancsó

Music by

Daniel Blumberg

Distributed by

Bleecker Street

Rated R / 105 min.

© 2021 Georgi Petrov

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