[MIFF ’11] The Woman

The Woman

Lucky McKee’s The Woman is a film that has stuck with me since I sat down to watch it. I wrote a review over at MoreHorror.com and I feel like some of my opinions have changed since then. Especially after getting to meet Lucky, and having the opportunity to discuss this film as well as his others. So what exactly is this film about and why has it had such an affect on me? Read on …
The film is about a woman (Pollyanna McIntosh), she lives in the wild, and is what society would call a savage. That is until the one day when lawyer Chris Cleek (Sean Bridgers) finds her and decides he might as well trap her and take her back to his home. But it isn’t as simple and straight-forward as that, he keeps her chained up and tasks his family (including his wife played by Angela Bettis) with cleaning her up and taking care of her. Does Chris want to civilize the woman? Or does he want another piece of property? Of course I won’t tell you anymore, and my description only really touches the surface. I will try to continue this review by remaining as spoiler free as possible.
I can safely say that you aren’t likely to see anything quite like The Woman; this film is as unique (and messed up) as they come. Right from the get go I was drawn into this film, I didn’t know what to expect and what I’d be in for. It is unlike anything McKee has done previously, yet it still has that McKee feel to it. The Woman is a challenging film; there are so many layers to uncover. It has psychological elements, it brings to life some startling moral questions, and of course it is a true horror film. It had an old school raw feel to it, something of substance that you would get straight from 70’s-esque horror.
The premise of this film is just so strange, it was engaging. Pollyanna McIntosh as well was a huge draw card here, she really is quite fantastic. There isn’t much of a background given to the character, but the performance she gives is more than enough to clue the audience in. Placing her in the situation that she ultimately gets in, was disturbing. What did she do to belong there? Will she be able to escape? These are some of the things I thought to myself while watching the film. It is almost worthy of a comparison to caging up a wild animal, there is a sense of cruelty, and you know something is going to give.

On the other side of the fence though, Chris’s actions with bringing this woman in affect his family is pretty terrible ways. None of them knows quite how to deal with it, and they basically have no choice against the domineering man. It is easy to feel empathy for most of the characters, and put yourself into their situations and wonder ‘how would I react’. This is an element present in McKee’s films, something he knows exactly how to do and makes it work. I can imagine a lot of people who see this film, will feel very sick by what happens. This is a natural reaction, it isn’t a film that is sunshine and rainbows, it is harsh and it forces you to feel. I can’t fault a film that makes me think and feel, and challenges me on every level. I love films that do this, and it succeeds so well in doing so.
The film is not violent for the sake of being violent, it has something to say and again it does that well. As I touched upon earlier the performances are fantastic, Pollyanna is a beautiful and talented actress. She understood this material and conveyed so much without actually speaking; her movements and facial expressions spoke volumes. I want to see more of her work, consider me a fan. Sean Bridgers was absolutely insane, but he needed to be. His character is not one to be liked; I spent the entire film wanting to punch him in the face. He was over the top at times, but it some how just worked and fit. Angela Bettis can do no wrong, she is superb in every which way. She also really got the material, the Bettis/MeKee film relationship works on a level I can’t even begin to explain. I am so glad she was in this film, she brought so much to the smaller but crucial role. The actors who played the son and daughters were all right as well, a bit hit and miss and overall it was fine.
The Woman is a great addition into the horror genre, and something we need more of. Lucky McKee in my eyes has a fantastic filmography, filled with interesting and challenging films. Nothing has quite topped the brilliance of his debut film May, but this film is right up there. It has a good solid script, strong performances, stunning cinematography and shots, and I can’t forget the very strange yet effective sound design. See this film, and support independent horror.

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