Sundance 2021: The World to Come

Katherine Waterston and Vanessa Kirby appear in The World to Come by Mona Fastvold, an official selection of the Spotlight section at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute. Photo by Vlad Cioplea.

The World to Come–launching in Venice last year–is the third period lesbian romance drama to grace the screen in as many years.

Your eyes do not deceive you.  Rather than France (Portrait of a Lady on Fire) or the United Kingdom (Ammonite), we find ourselves in the United States.  The American Northeast to be exact.  This is where we find Abigail (Katherine Waterston) and new neighbor Tallie (Vanessa Kirby).  To no surprise, Abigail and Tallie are drawn to each other.  Abigail’s farmer husband, Dyer (Casey Affleck), is a rather quiet man.  Tallie’s husband, Finney (Christopher Abbot), is controlling in a jealous kind of way.  What does Finney have to worry about?  It’s not safe to be in a same-sex relationship in the 1850s!  And yet, both Abigail and Tallie are able to find something in each other than they absolutely don’t have in their spouses.

Female connection is a main theme of the film.  For all Abigail and Tallie know, they could be the only women to have an interest in each other.  But hey, it’s the 1850s!  We’re talking about an era where women only really knew their parents and siblings before they married their husband.  Educating women wasn’t something that really happened during this era in time.  And if they were, it’s only what their parents allowed them to read.

This film takes us back in time just a few years before Ammonite.  But unlike that film, this film does not add an LGBTQ relationship where none is known to exist.  This is a purely fictional film so the lesbian romance is perfectly okay.  Well, if you are able to tolerate the awfully slow pacing for the period drama.  I want to stress first and foremost that I have nothing against lesbian dramas but a slow pace is going to hurt a viewer’s experience each and every time.  Do I wish I saw this film on the big screen?  Certainly!  Would it play better with such a viewing experience?  I don’t know but it’s possible that it would at least keep me mildly entertained.  What I can say with 100% certainty is that The World to Come could not keep my attention at home.

What I can tell you for sure is that I felt myself losing attention every minute by watching at home.  While it is true that some periods make for compelling cinema, it really comes down to the pacing.  I mean, I love a good Western or Civil War drama!  The pacing of The World to Come is really just too slow for my comfort.  You might have different interests but I know the type of movies that can keep me entertained at home.

The World to Come makes for another addition to lesbian film canon but as far as a viewer’s experience goes–to each their own.

DIRECTOR:  Mona Fastvold
SCREENWRITERS:  Jim Shepard & Ron Hansen
CAST:  Katherine Waterston, Vanessa Kirby, Christopher Abbott, and Casey Affleck

The World to Come screens during the 2021 Sundance Film Festival in the Spotlight program. Bleecker Street will release the film on February 12, 2021.

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.