Yell! Magazine’s review of The Woman:
Chris Cleek (Sean Bridgers) is a successful country lawyer who’s managed to raise a loving family, all thanks to a life of hard, endless work. He’s got a beautiful and obedient wife, Belle (Angela Bettis), a demure and well-mannered teenage daughter, Peggy (Lauren Ashley Carter), a headstrong and athletic son, Brian (Zach Rand), and lastly, a young daughter, Darlin’ (Shyla Molhusen).
One day, during one of his quality hunting trips, he comes across a filthy and uncivilised woman lurking about. She hunches, wears tattered clothes, and even dares to bathe in the river. Being the Good Samaritan that he is, Chris decides to take it upon himself to kidnap this woman, chain her up in his cellar, and get his wife to feed her oatmeal.
Under the guise of a “family project” Chris assertively instructs the members of his household to help “free her from her baser instincts” so that they may allow her to prosper in a civilised society.
What follows is a tirade of domestic abuse, rape, severed fingers, eaten feces, and more rape.
There. That’s the best way to set up a proper synopsis of a film like The Woman. It plays out like a family drama, but has this exceptionally perverse edge to it that caused a bit of an uproar at Sundance this year. Given the initial premise, you might think, “Oh, what a stupendously absurd idea! I’m sure this family will learn to grow closer while domesticating this wild beast of a woman!”
But unfortunately, fair reader, the contents of this film reflect quite the opposite.
You see, Chris has the oily charm of a man who’s a little too politically correct. He seems as normal as can be on the outside, but within his home he takes the title “Man of the House” to an uncomfortable extreme.
"I got this crazy, feral broad chained up in my cellar. Wanna see?'
His wife is riddled by some form of post-traumatic stress disorder. His daughter Peggy has learned to close herself off from the world around her. His son exudes the same male chauvinist vibes as his father, and his youngest daughter, well, she’s got no idea what’s going on most of the time.
With time, this new addition to the family serves to only heighten the familial tensions, and while things don’t escalate overtly as they often do, the growing pain is expressed very clearly on the Peggy’s face. Soon, Chris’ façade begins to melt away, Belle’s self-hatred manifests in an explosive manner, and Brian causes audience walk-outs in theaters all over the world.
And the whole walk-out thing is totally understandable. It’s clear that The Woman isn’t a film made for everybody. It’s got an oddly irreverent tone, soft and slow pacing, and a main antagonist that’s caused rape whistle sales to skyrocket since the film’s release. Present it to the wrong person, and they’ll just wind up confused and frustrated that you’d show them something this appalling. They thought you were their friend, and now you put them through this cinematic gauntlet of emotions? That’s just not what friends do for each other, man.
But, if your friends are big fans of Takashi Miike — treat them to a box of Mallomars, because they totally deserve it. Chances are that they won’t be put-off by this off-color study of misogyny set against the backdrop of a beautiful countryside home. The ending is delivered in a bit of a brutally violent twist, so just make sure that they’re well prepared. If not, they may end up with whiplash.
But The Woman could have wound up a total disaster if it weren’t supported by such an outstanding cast, namely The Woman herself. Pollyanna McIntosh gives a (surprisingly) nuanced performance and manages to say more with her eyes than she ever could with words.
This is of course, because we can't understand a thing she says.
Still, she manages to radiate hatred, intensity, and understanding, all while remaining utterly silent. Now, if you’ve ever seen anyone act like a dog during a heated game of charades, you’ll understand the difficulties that come with portraying what amounts to nothing more than a pseudo-human. It’s tough to make it all feel natural, and not devolve into something unintentionally funny, but Pollyanna manages it with an effortless acuity.
On the complete opposite side of the coin, Sean Bridgers plays a fantastically domineering power-tripping control-freak whose entire world revolves around getting what he wants. It’s a performance that’s done with delicate reserve throughout the first and second acts, and he gives us the perfect example of someone you can love to hate.
Worth mentioning as well would be Zach Rand, who follows very closely in his father’s footsteps. While he’s not as good at hiding his motives behind a calm and restricted mask, he’s still got a great poker face, and represents the quiet cruelty of his father. Like some kind of Satan-spawn, he manages his lines in a detached, sort of perfunctory way, and emanates the vibes of a kid worthy of being crowned “The Ultimate Bastard.” As a child actor, he makes the boy from Real Steel look like nothing more than an immaculate turd.
It raises the question as to why a kid so young knows how to accurately portray a sociopath.
So what we’ve got here is an attempt at social commentary as an excuse to show us a bunch of crazy crap — and for this, it’s commendable. The Woman will rub you in all the wrong ways, and there’s little chance that you’ll be forgetting it any time soon. Rarely do you see an independent film that gets its message across so clearly, but serves up something tasty for genre fans as well. It may have a subtext distributed with the subtlety of — I don’t know — Dane Cook, but at the very least, there’s a tangible attempt at trying to say something. It is for these reasons (as well as an odd fetish that I harbor for feral members of the opposite sex) that I simply must applaud a film as impactful as The Woman.
*Applauds by himself in a basement somewhere.*
- Yell! Rating (x/5 Skulls):
- Year Released:
- 23 January 2011 (USA)
- Lucky McKee
- Carlee Baker, Shana Barry, Angela Bettis, Sean Bridgers, Lauren Ashley Carter, Alexa Marcigliano, Pollyanna McIntosh, Shyla Molhusen, and Marcia Bennett
- Crime, Horror, Drama
- Official URL:
- The Women (2011) Official