The World to Come (15)

The World to Come (15)           

Director: Mona Fastvold            

Runtime: 98 minutes

Cast: Katherine Waterston, Vanessa Kirby, Casey Affleck, Christopher Abbott

Synopsis: Somewhere along the mid-19th century American East Coast frontier, two neighbouring couples battle hardship and isolation, witnessed by a splendid yet testing landscape, challenging them both physically and psychologically.


Directed by Mona Fastvold [(The Sleepwalker director (2015) co-writer of Childhood of a Leader  (2015) and actor in  Vox Lux (2018)], The World to Come explores how isolation is overcome by the power of imagination and the intensity of human connection. Scripted by Jim Shepard and Ron Hansen, it is based upon the eponymous original story by Jim Shepard.

 In this powerful frontier romance framed by the four seasons and set against the backdrop of the rugged terrain of Schoharie County in upstate New York in the 1850s, Abigail (Katherine Waterston), a farmer’s wife, and her new neighbour Tallie (Vanessa Kirby) find themselves powerfully, irrevocably drawn to each other. As grieving Abigail tends to the needs of her taciturn husband Dyer (Casey Affleck) and Tallie bristles at the jealous control of her husband Finney (Christopher Abbot), both women are illuminated and liberated by their intense bond, filling a void in their lives they never knew existed.

Norwegian director Mona Fastvold paints a vivid picture of a suffocating patriarchal era that seeks to stifle and dim a woman’s light. Both women are trapped in loveless marriages, and quickly bond over their shared misery before embarking on a tentative affair filling a void in their lives which neither previously knew existed.

The World to Come had its world premiere at the 77th Venice International Film Festival on September 6, 2020, where it won the Queer Lion award for best LGBTQ-themed film at the Festival.

As Abigail considers the year to come through her journal entries, there is a marked contrast between her deliberate, stoic manner and her unravelling complex emotions. Spring arrives and Abigail meets Tallie, an emotionally frank and arrestingly beautiful new neighbour renting a nearby farm with her husband, Finney. When the two women form a quick and deep friendship, Abigail confides to Tallie that her marriage with Dyer is based on practicality, not romance while Tallie reveals that her husband Finney can be quarrelsome and controlling.

With strong ensemble playing and Kirby and Waterstone delivering stellar performances, there is beautiful cinematography from André Chemetoff capturing the visually austere yet stunning landscapes; the exceptional sound editing and an unusual and memorable clarinet permeated soundtrack by Daniel Blumberg emphasise the oppressive, forbidden love themes.

However despite the elegant visuals and strong performances, this historical, tragic, love story moves rather too slowly for comfort.

The World to Come is comprised of ingredients familiar to fans of the period forbidden romance genre, but a superb cast provides electrifying performances that give the genre fresh life.

In cinemas

Images courtesy of: Sony Pictures