After watching a YouTube clip of an enraged man walking out of a viewing for The Woman, I knew that this was a film that I HAD to see (view below). If some “cinema” buff could not digest everything that he was witnessing, how horrifying must it have been? I’m not all too familiar with Lucky McKee’s work, and the only Ketchum material I experienced was, The Girl Next Door (which is quite good). I put off watching The Woman for a week or so because I didn’t know what this movie was going to do to me emotionally. I must say that, despite the very few problems I had with The Woman, I was both disturbed and enlightened (yeah, figure that out).
The Woman is a standalone film that is technically a sequel to The Offspring. Pollyanna McIntosh stars in both films as “The Woman”, but I haven’t seen The Offspring to comment on the plot or the film’s quality (though I heard it’s rather bad). Apparently, the woman loses her cannibal family in The Offspring, leaving her to fend for herself in the wilderness. This is where The Woman picks up, in an almost surreal dream-like experience, you are witness to the fact that the woman is nature or a representation of it. She is dreaming of having a child, a child that is raised by wolves, and whose cradle is a tree stump. Interpret it to your liking, that’s not the point here, but this film makes a connection between women and the earth whether you want to hear it or not.
Enter Chris Cleek, is a controlling husband and father of 3. On a solo hunting trip, he comes across a filthy woman bathing in a creek. He watches her from afar, lusting after her, and feeling the need to dominate her existence. The next day he goes back to the same place and captures the woman with a net, knocks her out, and ties her up in his basement/celler. Chris brings the family down, acting like it’s Christmas morning, and tells them that they are going to tame this uncivilized woman. The son is on board with this, but the women of the family have their issues, but won’t voice them out of fear of being hurt by Chris. As the abuse against the woman becomes more intense, so do the risks, which all lead to a climactic and moving conclusion.
The Woman is a difficult film to watch for a number of reasons, the most obvious being the realistic and gut wrenching violence, but the difficulty also stems from the themes that McKee throws at you. I don’t like misogyny, at all, and though justified, this film is full of it. The father/husband is a controlling psychopath, who acts normal and is pleasant enough to talk to but if you disobey or defy him, you’ll end up in physically abused. There’s a scene in particular where Chris and his wife (the beautiful Angela Bettis) are getting ready for bed. Belle (the wife) offhandedly questions Chris’ motives in a gentle way, Chris responds with a slap to her face and proceeds to lay down and act as if nothing happened. It just saddens me that she let her life get to this point, and her obedience to Chris does not do well for her in the long run. Anyways, these types of scenes depress me, but at the same time, it’s powerful in its own right because it’s evoking a response.
The Woman keeps you enraged throughout the majority of the film, that these people are letting this woman be abused even if they know it’s wrong. Of course there’s a payoff in the end, but we won’t get into that. I can understand why that man walked out of the theater, I expect anyone who didn’t have an appreciation for a film like this would be upset, but you have to see it till the end to get any satisfaction. The Woman is a discourse on the connection between woman and nature, representing an uncontrollable, yet natural feminine force. Not that this film is an anti-man statement, it’s just against the idea of misogyny and commenting on the what humans can do with too much power.
I feel like I have drifted away from the review format, but there’s a good amount of material to talk about. This film makes you think, and it stick with you. So with that being said, let’s move on.
Pollyanna McIntosh plays an outstanding role as the woman, with her convincing feral behavior and ear-splitting screams, she steals the show. Sean Bridges as Chris Cleek is frightening to watch, his abusive and unrelenting actions filled me with hatred, but the most terrifying idea is that dominating husbands like Chris, exist. Angela Bettis, who’s still beautiful these days, convinces us of the juxtaposition that goes on in her thought process. She is torn between helping the woman and be submissive to her husband. Her quiet and at times, passive portrayal of Belle Cleek solidifies her role as one of the more unappreciated actors in today’s cinema. The acting in this film is a pleasure (?) to watch but there’s only one person who I just didn’t care for, and that would be Zach Rand playing Brian Cleek. His goofy take on a younger version of his father is laughable at times, though there are some dark and gruesome situations written for him, he is completely unconvincing.
There’s a good amount of material not explained in The Woman, being a sequel, I can expect some of that. It seems that McKee wanted to make a standalone film but I feel that he assumed too much on the audiences knowledge of the material. I wouldn’t say that I was lost at any point in the narrative, but there are scenes (especially one section towards the end) that confused me. This not something to use against a movie that technically a sequel, but it would have been nice to have known a few more things.
I need to wrap this up because I could talk for at least 1,000 more words on this movie. It’s wonderfully directed, acted, and has a great soundtrack. It’s a brutal movie that will turn many viewers stomachs, but the intensity is justifiable within its context. The themes of misogyny and female power are portrayed wonderfully in their extreme ways. It’s hardly a films that’s enjoyable for entertainment purposes, but to its defense, it’s enjoyable like cutting open watermelons with a machete is enjoyable. It feeds a primal instinct, you connect with this film in a dark way that’s hard to articulate. The film’s only issues come down to lack of proper explanation, the kid-actor, and the somewhat unbelievable situations towards the end of the run-time. The Woman is not for the weak of heart and will most likely anger you, but promise me you’ll stick it out till the end for its beautiful payoff.