Sundance Review: The World to Come

Whilst the popularity of Westerns may have been on the wane for a long time, filmmakers still seem fascinated by this period of American history. The excitement and danger of exploration. The pioneering lifestyle. Traditionally, this has been an almost all male province, with women often relegated to merely wives or prostitutes. However, only we’re beginning to hear more female voices from this era. This is the case in The World to Come.

Abigail (Katherine Waterston) has become increasingly disillusioned with the drudgery of everyday life and her unfulfilling marriage to Dyer (Casey Affleck). Living in rural upstate New York where nothing much happens; she drifts through days whilst also mourning the death of their daughter. When a new couple come to town, Tallie (Vanessa Kirby) and Finney (Christopher Abbott), she’s initially curious. This soon turns into much more as the women become close.

The World to Come give voice to a rarely discussed aspect of frontier life. Told from Abigail’s perspective and using her diaries as a narrative driver, Mona Fastvold’s film tells her story in an intrinsically personal way. This device may not be everyone’s taste and the endless morosity can become a bit too much. However, it’s the relationship between Waterston and Kirby’s characters where The World to Come thrives. The complexities and nuances of their love is captured in quiet conversations, guarded glances and with subtle body language.  

The World to Come screens at Sundance Film Festival.

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