the world to come

Certain films leave me in a true moment of wonder and awe. One of Sundance’s premiere films, “The World to Come,” truly captures the essence of what it means to want a love you can’t have. We follow two couples play by Casey Affleck, Katherine Waterson, Vanessa Kirby, and Cristopher Abbott, as they deal with the harshness of their reality. That harshness pushes both Waterson and Kirby’s characters into a forbidden love, which goes against everything of the period. That sort of premise may be easy to decipher in terms of a tragedy-like storytelling, but the artistic flourishes make it stand out. In no small part, that’s due to a brilliant batch of performances from some great actors.

As our star-crossed lovers, Kirby and Waterson create a type of intimacy that goes past displays of affection. There are looks of joy between them as one simply walks into a room, which translates quite easily to an audience. We can tell these women’s immediate infatuation without the film ever having to say it to us. Thanks to a strong screenplay by Ron Hansen and Jim Shepard, we’re given a clear understanding of why they love each other. At the same time, we’re also able to decipher why these two characters’ love can never survive in this world. It creates a layer of tension because we know of the various scenario’s this forbidden romance could take. A portion of that tension comes from these women’s husbands, who aren’t as oblivious as we may expect.

I will say that Kirby and Waterson are the film’s true stars in every sense of the word. It’s the script by Hansen and Shepard that allows our supporting cast to have a voice. Both Affleck and Abbot play male characters that are products of the time, but each is given slightly different outcomes. If you think you know how these characters’ stories will play out, you don’t. It’s just such a change of pace compared to the typical type of arc you’d expect for these characters. The point I want to reiterate here is the tragedy of a story such as this.

Director Mona Fastvold creates a very atmospheric feeling making us feel isolated and terms to incredibly warm. When we get to the driving force of the plot, the drama becomes the true star. Doing so creates something quite dower tonally that won’t be for anyone who dislikes this sort of period piece. If you can form an emotional connection in any stretch of the word to these characters, you’ll be on board. The attention to detail in making this relationship feel organic is exceptional. Fastvold allows this relationship to grow and not immediately throw us in the deep end. It’s nice to have this sort of slow-burn romance that lets us get to know our characters.

“The World to Come” is a film that genuinely took my breath away due to its attention to detail. Fastvold lets us as an audience spend time with these characters, which lets the romance feel real. Simultaneously the tension is allowed to grow and evolve due to the unspoken moments of affection between the characters. The moments of chilliness to warmth allow us to become involved on an emotional level. There’s never an instance of disconnection between us and the characters which make us root for them. Even if you know the narrative beats, there’s so much joy to soak in. This is a film that’s going to stick with me and when it opens on demand next month, check it out!

Rating: 4/5

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