Life & Culture

Film review: The World to Come

Wonderful performances lift this movie out of the ordinary



Katherine Waterston and Vanessa Kirby star as two lonely frontier women who find solace in each other in this gentle and unfussy drama from Norwegian-born director Mona Fastvold.

Adapted by Jim Shepard and Ron Hansen from Shepard’s own 2017 short story by the same name, The World To Come also stars Casey Affleck (Manchester By The Sea, A Ghost Story) and Christopher Abbott (It Comes at Night, Possessor) as the women’s respective husbands.

In 1850s Schoharie County, New York, Waterston is Abigail, a young married woman mourning the recent death of her infant daughter. Consumed by grief, Abigail has stopped going to church and spends most of her days buried in her thoughts which she sometimes transfers onto daily journal entries. Meanwhile, her marriage to taciturn farmer Dyer (Affleck, faultless in his trademark “man of a few words” delivery) is slowly falling apart, amidst the upcoming winter freeze threatening their livelihood.

When Tallie (Kirby) and Finney (Abbott), a childless young couple, move to a nearby farm, Abigail becomes infatuated with the beautiful Tallie, finding in her all the affection and understanding missing from her own relationship. Meanwhile, Tallie is trapped in a loveless marriage with the overbearing, bible-bashing and sometimes violent Finney (Abbott).

The film’s title is taken from one of Abigail’s journal entries in which she confesses to “no longer deriving comfort from the thought of a better world to come” as an explanation for refusing to go to church. It is this idea of what’s to come, be it in the afterlife or in the future, which sits at the heart of Fastvold’s film. She has given a period drama which is both timely and thought-provoking in its handing of the power dynamics between men and women in the frontiers.

Elevated by Waterston and Kirby’s beautifully measured performances, The World To Come also features another stunning turn courtesy of Abbott, who is slowly becoming one of the most accomplished actors working in Hollywood currently. All in all, this is a sober, deftly executed and gorgeously acted drama worth getting excited about.

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