Lucky McKee’s The Woman seemed to be the movie that was going to split audiences, seen as the controversial film of the festival as Westminster Council requested to view it before the screening but gladly there would be no repeat of last year’s A Serbian Film and it played on Saturday evening.
Chris Cleek (Sean Bridges) a successful small town country lawyer stumbles across a woman who seems to have grown in the wild whilst hunting. Returning to the place he saw her Chris decides to capture The Woman (Pollyanna McIntosh) imprisoning her in his outdoor basement. Seeing the woman as a family project Chris’ intention is to try and civilize her with the help of wife Belle (Angela Bettis), daughter Peggy (Lauren Ashley Carter) and son Brian (Zach Rand). Living under the dictatorship of Chris most of the family begrudgingly accept to help with his project and quickly find out that there is more to this Woman than first meets the eye. As shocking as it is profound Lucky McKee’s dissection of the darker elements of the human condition is sure to leave its mark.
The tagline of the poster reads ‘Not Every Monster Lives in the Woods’ and if there has been a more fitting tagline I would like to see it for I have not seen a character as dislikeable and evil but completely engaging as Chris Cleek for quite some time. His threatening but charming persona just gives the film the creepy edge that it needs to make it uncomfortable to watch, which is I’m sure exactly the atmosphere McKee was trying to create.
Like the works of Von Trier, The Woman is a film that is hard to enjoy but very easy to respect and admire. A film about abuse will always be a hard subject to tackle but for me it’s the feeling of superiority that makes it that more unsettling. The slow breakdown and dehumanisation of The Woman can only be described as a lion being taken out of its environment put in a cage and tortured until it is no more than a timid house cat. I have always been one who’s been affected by animal cruelty but when you but a human in that position where they are helpless and unable to fight back and you watch as another person slowly chip away at their spirit and soul it’s hard to take.
The believability of the film was resting on the performance of Pollyanna McIntosh, for a character that is unable to speak in any understandable language and that is tied up so therefore can’t use their limbs to bring anything to their performance it would be very hard to get the emotion of The Woman on screen. But McIntosh throws herself head first into the character, it’s a courageous performance from the Scottish actress and finding out that all of the sounds she made had no digital enhancement is incredible. But to be honest all of the cast were great Sean Bridges like I mentioned above brought a lot to his character, the two children were great when needed and May star Angela Bettis was brilliant as usual.
The argument of misogyny that some are labelling the film is completely unfounded, so much so that I would stand firmly on the other side of the line and call it feministic. All the woman in the movie at some point stand up for what is right and fight against the two male antagonists. The film never once sides with the male characters; they are shown as twisted personalities not really connected with the world. We’ve all seen the Youtube video from Sundance (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L_1OEvFJtoM) this man calls the film inhumane, but the thing is there actually are inhumane people in this world and even though this is an extreme version of that iit’s a story that needed to be made to show those people as the monsters they are.
As I mentioned before this is a film that examines the darker side of what humans are capable of and the fact is sometimes that is disturbing to watch and sometimes it is brutal, but you have to respect filmmakers who can take a subject like Lucky McKee and co-writer Jack Ketchum do in The Woman and be brave enough and skilled enough to tell a story that might not be an enjoyable experience but be comfortable in knowing that it is a story that has a right to be told.