February 11th, 2021
MOVIE: THE WORLD TO COME
STARRING: KATHERINE WATERSTON, VANESSA KIRBY, CHRISTOPHER ABBOTT, CASEY AFFLECK
DIRECTED BY: MONA FASTVOLD
AMovieGuy.com’s RATING: 2 ½ STARS (Out of 4)
The World to Come is an incredibly frustrating film. I will go in depth as to why that is, but it ultimately can be summed up as slow. It’s painfully slow, some will call it boring, and I would not argue with them, but I did find beautiful art in the piece as a whole. It could be that The World to Come is authentic to the core, taking place in the 1800’s, on the frontiers of the east coast of America. The story involves two couples, Abigail (Katherine Waterston) and Dyer (Casey Affleck) are the main focus, a small farm with chickens and a few cows, with their daughter, who would eventually be lost to cholera. The other couple is Tallie (Vanessa Kirby) and Finney (Christoher Abbott) a couple dealing with their own issues, inability to have children, loneliness, and an inability to agree on how the house will run. In the middle of these two couples is the connection between Abigail and Tallie, which starts as a gentle friendship and soon becomes intensely romantic. The World to Come turns into a study of love, during a time where women were saddled with expectations, husbands with misogynistic beliefs, and an inability to be free of their own mind. To experience The World to Come is almost too authentic, delivering a slice of a time where misery was a standard mood, but two women find each other out in the cold.
From the get go, the tone and the settings of The World to Come is dour. A cold and darkly lit time of living, with no electricity, no indoor plumbing, and a constant struggle to survive. In all of those regards, director Mona Fastvold has her ducks in a row. The screenplay by Ron Hansen and Jim Shepard places the two converging characters into their corners of grief and then angels them at one another. Abigail and Dyer are afraid to approach having another child, in too much pain to even think of loving one another. Tallie and Finney have a bit of energy, but it’s more of a facade, but inside both sharing a disdain for one another. And then the two couples meet, with Dyer and Finney bonding over farming while the ladies talk inside. Then the ladies are just spending time together talking, sharing laughter, companionship they never get from their husbands, and discovering the two have a passionate attraction for one another.
One of the unique narrative decisions about The World to Come is that the majority of each day is narrated by Abigail through her daily diary entries. It was not till much later that I realized how important this decision was, because this is a personal telling for this character, and a window into the soul of a person who could not reveal who they were during this time. It’s also a device to show how her character evolves from beginning to the end. The performances by Waterston and Kirby are the center of the film, while everything around them seems to lack the energy to truly make it a better picture.
Although the two stories are of entirely different times and places, it’s hard to not compare The World to Come with my recent appreciation for Ammonite. Where that film had two stellar performances by Kate Winslett and Saoirse Ronan, it also had a narrative that exuded passion, romance, and love. The World to Come is too miserable to be romantic and not romantic enough to love along the way. The relationship of Abigail and Tallie is a love hanging in the balance, waiting for the men around them to destroy it. It’s all of this sadness, this bogged down emotion, that makes The World to Come a sluggish trek through a dire romance.
Everything else about The World to Come is well done, with fine crafted sets, costumes that look authentic, and cinematography that captures the surroundings. The World to Come could have learned a thing or two from Kelly Reichardt’s First Cow or 2019’s fantastic romance Portrait of a Lady on Fire, both movies about friendship and love in an earlier time. Those movies never dragged, never lacked for emotion, laughter, or love. The World to Come has commendable attributes, but I was expecting so much more.
THE WORLD TO COME IS NOW PLAYING IN SELECT THEATERS AND WILL BE AVAILABLE DIGITAL ON DEMAND MARCH 2ND.
2 ½ STARS
Written by: Leo Brady