Few movies can inject a sense of dread within the first few minutes in such a way that I almost just want to shut it off. To be honest though when I sat down to watch this I was not prepared for what I was about to watch and the opening minutes of the film only highlighted how I felt at the time. Dark comedy does not quite overshadow the ugliness at the heart of Lucky McKee’s THE WOMAN. This is a film effective in its ability to revel in the unpleasant depths of the characters and the overall experience is equal parts entertaining and disturbing.
On the outside Chris Cleek is a family man that has a specific image in his head of how a family should look and act. Deep down though Chris is driven by a darker impulse and controls his family through fear. When out hunting one day Chris stumbles upon a woman living amongst nature and with seemingly no typical human manners and does not behave as most people do. Chris takes it upon himself to burden his family with this woman by holding her against her will at their farm and force his family to participate in teaching this woman how to behave like a civilized member of society.
THE WOMAN is not a pleasant experience. For the most part the film moves at a very leisurely pace, throwing in a few dark laughs and quirky scenes just to break up the monotony of the opening going into the halfway point. What it does do that redeems the slower pace is set up and build several different relationships that eventually lead to a tense and violent finale.
The performances are all decent- there’s nothing here that really blew me away aside from Pollyanna McIntosh having to basically go through a series of emotions without really speaking any discernible dialogue while seeming both helpless and intimidating. McIntosh has the task of portraying a sympathetic female role because she is for the most part being tortured and objectified while also being terrifying and unpredictable as this wild “creature” that has no bearings on how to behave as a person and will probably rip your throat out given the chance. It’s a performance that is a welcome balance in the submissive and dominant behavior of the characters and the portrayal of women in the film.
The father Chris played by Sean Bridgers says and does some pretty weird things in certain situations and at first I wrote it off as kind of a gaping flaw of the film but the more I think of it the funnier and interesting it is. The rest of the family including Chris’ wife, played by Angela Bettis, is basically at Chris’ mercy which becomes part of the intriguing nature of the film as you wonder why in the world anyone would stick by someone that is holding another human being against their will.
There is quite a bit of brutality, especially during the ending. The shock of the visuals is enough to make your stomach turn and the film does not leave you with a feeling of hope or joy. THE WOMAN is full of dark intentions, mostly with the male characters but also approaches things with a quirky sense of humor.
Lucky McKee seems to know his way around telling a somewhat unconventional story with in a unique way and THE WOMAN hammers that sentiment home. The film is full of uncomfortable scenes and visuals even sounds that I’m unlikely to forget anytime soon. The performance by the nameless woman by Pollyanna McIntosh is fearless and kind of terrifying especially when she belts out those inhuman growls. Overall, THE WOMAN isn’t an experience I plan to put myself through again anytime soon despite finding it perfectly watchable- then again I also don’t foresee being able to shake the experience as quickly as I’d like.