Review: Icy romance 'The World to Come' fails to connect
Courtesy of Bleecker Street
The resurgence of period lesbian romances has been hard to ignore. From “Carol,” “The Handmaiden,” to “Ammonite,” and “Portrait of a Lady on Fire,” these stories are refreshingly owning the spotlight at a rate unseen before. Directed by Mona Fastvold, “The World to Come” continues the trend of icy romances; albeit as another glossy, beautifully shot and well performed drama that surprisingly fails to render an emotional impact. Considering the combined star power of Katherine Waterston and Vanessa Kirby, “The World to Come” is a slow-burn endeavor that’ll test audiences patience as the film gradually builds to an anti-climactic result.
Set during the 19th century in the American Northeast - Andre Chemetoff’s exceptional cinematography proves intoxicating in those earlier moments - Waterson plays Abigail, a farmer’s wife who never takes a moment to herself and feels something is missing from her daily routine. Dyer, her husband played by Casey Affleck, doesn’t give Abigail what she craves, opting to finish the logbooks or tinker with useless farm equipment then satisfy her needs. To stimulate her mind, Abigail writes down poems or other thoughts in her journal until someone finally gives her purpose.
In walks Tallie (Kirby) who just arrived in town with her own mindless husband (Christopher Abbott). She instantly connects with Abigail, and the two become inseparable as they bicker about the harsh farming landscape and their husband’s traditional values. They begin meeting everyday, sometimes at the expense of farm work going unnoticed, swapping stories, exchanging gifts, and eventually becoming romantically involved. We know this can’t go on forever, and the audience is left to wonder how long before their husbands start to read the tension. But despite this foundational romance and Fasvold’s grip on the suspense, “The World to Come” is very bland and not particularly exciting.
Ron Hansen and Jim Shepard’s screenplay plays heavily into Abigail's diary entries, leaving Waterston’s gloomy voiceovers to progress the narrative. Kirby - who stunned recently in “Pieces of a Woman” - is one phenomenal actress with the correct read on each scene she enters, but there’s no spark among her and Waterston. When they share a kiss or make long, sometimes awkward, eye contact, it’s dead on arrival.
For a movie that hinges its title - “The World to Come” - on the prospect of hope, there’s very minimal to root for. Characters are left to their own thoughts and Abigail speaks of her childhood with a loving mother, but that seems peppered in as useless exposition. Affleck and Abbott exist to make grumpy faces and spew jargon about how a woman’s job is in the kitchen, and when you think something is finally going to ignite between these parties, “The World to Come” ends with a whimper.
THE WORLD TO COME opens in select theaters February 12th and will release digitally March 2nd.
COVID-19: Here at TheOnlyCritic.com, we’re committed to covering theatrical releases, but there’s still inherent risks in regards to going inside movie theaters. Please make sure you look up your local theaters COVID-19 guidelines and procedures before purchasing a ticket, and if you don’t feel comfortable going into a theater, please don’t. A positive review of an exclusive theatrical release is not an endorsement to put your health and safety at risk. In most cases, critics receive digital screeners or are invited to socially distanced press screenings, which defers heavily from what you might experience.