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By Megan Bianco
Lesbian costume dramas really seem to be all the rage these days in independent filmmaking. This month, Mona Fastvold’s The World to Come now joins the club by going to VOD (Video on Demand) and streaming after a limited theatrical release in February.
Fastvold’s film quickly gained online hype on social media after debuting at the Venice Film Festival last September. And now, movie fans can see for themselves if it earned the hype.
In a dreary, freezing winter season on the East Coast frontier in mid-19th century America, two married couples live near each other with similar, yet different situations. Abigail (Katherine Waterston) and Dyer (Casey Affleck) live isolated while running their farm after the tragic death of their 5-year-old daughter from Typhoid fever.
Tallie (Vanessa Kirby) and Finney (Christopher Abbott) move into the area temporarily for Finney’s career. By summertime, Abigail and Tallie have not only formed a quick friendship from the neglect and business of their husbands, but also a more intimate bond.
Part of me almost wishes I hadn’t known beforehand the screenplay for The World to Come was written by two men—Ron Hansen and Jim Shepard—because I ended up nitpicking a bit more with their take on this kind of story than I would otherwise.
I also found some of the narration and dialogue exchanges slightly overwrought and pretentious. What does work with The World to Come is Fastvold’s direction, which slightly reminds me of David Lowery’s Ain’t Them Bodies Saints (2013), and also co-stars Affleck.
Andre Chemetoff’s cinematography alongside Daniel Blumberg’s eerie musical score give the universe and atmosphere Fastvold has crafted an ominous and introspective feel. Waterston, Affleck and Abbott are all great actors, but Kirby really shines here with a sensual performance that comes off successfully retro, yet modern.
The World to Come has its pros and cons, but it’s still a decent new release, especially compared to what we usually get for a film in late winter/early spring.