The World to Come is what happens when an icy lesbian drama has everything it needs, but the people behind the camera don’t know what to do with a lesbian romance.
The ingredients are all here – two sad lonely women, a patriarchal society, and the cold harsh American frontier.
The set-design and pastoral cinematography are captivating enough to make you curious. Mona Fastvold makes you pay attention to the little details that have become the trademark of the movie’s subgenre – furtive glances, long stares, and slight touches.
Vanessa Kirby and Katherine Waterston have little chemistry but they’re able to communicate a palpable romance and sexual tension. You can see why their characters are drawn to each other.
Abigail (Katherine Waterston) and Dyer (Casey Affleck) have an estranged marriage. She’s a forlorn woman married to a detached husband. It seems they were once happy. Their daughter died of Diptheria and the relationship hasn’t recovered since. He wants another child. She isn’t ready.
One day a couple arrives. Tallie (Vanessa Kirby) and Finney (Christopher Abbott) rent a farm close by. She’s a free-spirited woman married to a zealously religious and jealous husband. She has yet to give him a child. He has a ledger of who she visits and how long she stays.
Abigail and Tallie become fast friends, bond over their dead-end marriages, and develop a connection. Unfortunately, the movie can’t develop their relationship any further than two sad lesbians against a gloomy backdrop.
The World to Come is too pensive and formal that it’s boring and unworthy of a red-haired Vanessa Kirby.
The movie has a thin story and one-note characters that are overpowered by a melancholic mood. It’s as if the writers watched a couple of lesbian period dramas but only took the restraint and none of the romance.
The main problem is a monotonous script that has mistaken sadness for depth. Abigail narrates her story like an entry in a diary. This tedious narration tells us what happens but the movie shows little.
Abigail and Tallie’s relationship doesn’t have any compelling against-the-odds story to keep you engaged. Their romance has piecemeal offerings. The most intimate scenes are reduced into a quick montage towards the end, betraying what little connection the pairing has.
The only thing that’s stopping these two childless women from eloping is their husbands. But they’re unnecessary distractions only used for dramatic effect, especially Finney.
In one scene, Abigail says that a cage can work in their favor hinting that she is willing to keep a secret love affair. Tallie doesn’t like cages but says no more of how they could stay together. The movie doesn’t pick up on this conflict and later on settles for a tacked-on tragedy in the end.
The World to Come tells us that a diary of a person’s life doesn’t always provide the whole picture. It’s an interesting idea. But the movie doesn’t tell us an interesting story. What we have is a dull lesbian romance that is all mood and no passion.
The World to Come
The World to Come is a boring lesbian period drama with a well-acted romance that's stifled by a monotonous melancholic story.