Wednesday, September 22

World to Come Review: Secret Passions in Frontier-Age America | Films

TThe World to Come is a tragedy and a love story, and also a puzzle, courtesy of the title. Does the afterlife mean the entrance to paradise that will be the reward for all the hardships and injustices we have suffered here? Or does it mean the future: that progressive and longed-for place where current fanaticisms will be abolished and, indeed, the place from which, in the 21st century, we look back on this 19th century history, trusting that we are liberated? of the limitations of these past characters, content that we understand what is happening and it is possible that they do not?

The director is Mona Fastvold, who also wrote and directed The Sleepwalker and wrote the screenplay for A Leader’s Childhood, from a script by Ron Hansen and Jim Shepard, adapted from Shepard’s own story. In a winter border settlement in the United States in 1856, a couple of farmers have it brutally difficult: they are Abby (Katherine Waterston) and Dyer (Casey Affleck). They are both equally disappointed in life and vaguely ashamed of themselves for being one: Dyer longed to be an engineer, his true passion, and Abby is oppressed by the boring exhaustion of a woman. Their young daughter died of diphtheria the year before, leaving them both stunned with grief.

But accidentally, Abby’s chores have allowed her to cultivate an inner life. You have to keep a journal, the purpose of which is to keep track of various cleaning jobs, and you use it to trust your hopes and fears. It is this journal, with its handwritten date entries and Abby’s voice-over, that provides the narrative structure and final revelation of the “hidden” journal entries in montage, the accumulation of moments in a hidden existence: it is a storytelling hit.

Abby’s world is turned upside down when a new partner moves in nearby: the stern and ironic Finney (Christopher Abbott) whose frustration, self-hatred, and dangerously pent-up rage is on a much higher level than Dyer’s, and his wife, Tallie (Vanessa Kirby). , charismatic, beautiful, and not so secretly disdainful of a man’s world in which she is unappreciated.

Kirby and Waterston show with great acting skill and zeal two people who fall madly in love at first sight, totally and passionately. All at the same time, they are inseparable. Abby is spellbound by Tallie’s flirtatious charm, Tallie by Abby’s shy sobriety and idealism. And at first, the men are reasonably glad that this friendship continues, grateful for something that pacifies their wives. But then they feel there is something else, and Affleck and Abbott, though they play very different people, show how these men don’t have the emotional language to express what they feel; Finney and Dyer are angry with each other and with themselves for not controlling this situation. A horribly restricted and tense dinner is a symptom of this.

The transgressive love stories of the period are, perhaps, nothing new: Céline Sciamma’s Portrait of a Lady on Fire emerged in 2019 and Francis Lee recently gave us his Victorian tale Ammonite. Fastvold’s film sets itself apart because it shows us how physical restraint and violence are part of the fabric of life. At one point, Dyer ties Abby to a chair and administers laudanum to control her rage-filled pain at Tallie’s absence, and more violence looms. Fastvold shows that this is a way of life in which the vast majority of emotions and feelings, and consciousness itself, are suppressed, like a locked virus.

He is suppressed in part by religion, but in part out of sheer exhaustion. These people are pioneers and have sacrificed to build a prosperous lifestyle that one day, in the world to come, will be appreciated by their descendants, with the luxuries of leisure and culture; Abby is in awe of how her grandmother had it even harder than she did. She pays 90 cents for a heartbreakingly modest item for her – an atlas, on the pages of which she can roam the world, for free. Right now, your emotions are buried. But the sheer secrecy, the sheer lack of recognition, makes Tallie and Abby’s mutual passion even more extravagant and real.

The World to Come opens July 23 in theaters.

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