The World to Come does well in depicting the hardship people faced during the 19th century, especially women, yet the focus on this forces the interesting romance story to take a back-burner.
Written by Becca Johnson
Starring Katherine Waterston and current BAFTA nominee Vanessa Kirby, playing two women who end up forging a close romantic connection on the mid 19th century American frontier. Both frequently down-trodden by their mundane lives and tiresome marriages, the two women find solace in each other.
Director Mona Fastvold manages to capture the time period effortlessly, with set design and costuming that is a treat on the eye. This paired with the prominence of the musical score captures the audience from the moment it begins, balanced beautifully by Waterston's narration that all comes together to create an immersive experience. The movie takes a simplistic approach, often relying on body language and glances to relay thoughts and emotions. Nothing is over-glamorised or romanticised, ultimately creating a nuanced and raw exploration.
Waterston and Kirby excel in their lead roles. Their chemistry is undeniable, and it's fascinating to watch the two women navigate each other and their feelings. However, The World to Come doesn't quite give us enough of this romance. It's clear from the start that the movies main goal is to give its audience a look into the time period, showing the hard-ships that people on the frontier had to face in order to stay warm, fed and watered. The work is tiresome, endless and definitely puts tension and strain on relationships. Though this theme is explored well, it unfortunately leaves the romance under-developed and unable to provoke as much emotion as it intended. The love is there, the chemistry is leaping from the screen, yet it has no time to shine.
The focus on the lives of the people is both a blessing and a curse. Though it demands attention to be taken from the romance between the leads, it allows for good conversation about the treatment of women during this time. Women were expected to fulfil job roles in order to please their husbands and nothing more, and the script doesn't hold back in letting the audience know this. It also allowed the performances from Casey Affleck and Christopher Abbott to shine as they played the husbands of the leads, over-powered by the work that needs doing and frequently irked by the lack of help from their wives as the relationship between the women develops. Both performances were far from career best, but definitely believable and well acted.
The World to Come was both an immersive experience and a compelling romance. The script, though weak at times, offers interesting conversations on grief, life on the mid 19th century American frontier, the treatment of women and finding solace through matched experiences. However, the slow pace of the story-line may not be right for every member of the audience, and the movie fails to give the romance the attention it deserves, resulting in an emotion-less feeling when the movie draws to a close.