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Director Mona Fastvold has crafted one gorgeous romance.

Set in mid-19th century American East Coast frontier, The World to Come centres on one emotionally scarred woman being brought back to life by a new relationship.

Amateur writer Abigail (Katherine Waterston) leads a methodical and cyclical existence with her farmer husband Dyer (Academy Award winner Casey Affleck), as they mourn a painful loss.

Abigail’s world is shaken, however, by the arrival of the vibrant and flame-haired neighbour Tallie (Vanessa Kirby) and her controlling husband Finney (Christopher Abbott).

As the introverted Abigail spends more time with the confident Tallie, a friendship grows between the two and soon begins to evolve into something even more powerful.

However, the presence of Tallie’s abusive husband and the constraints of the era threaten the women’s happiness.

Katherine Waterston and Vanessa Kirby star in frontier-set drama The World to Come
(Image: Vlad Cioplea/Courtesy of Sundance Institute)

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Fastvold really builds an understanding of the picturesque landscape, the location, and the daily rhythm of Abigail’s life, providing a true sense of space and time.

Additionally, the director also utilises an invasive narrative that instead of overstaying its welcome adds an almost literary quality to proceedings thanks to screenwriters Ron Hansen and Jim Shepard, the latter to whom’s novel the film is based on.

Alongside the almost painterly quality to Andre Chemetoff’s superb cinematography, the rich score provided by Daniel Blumberg only serves to create a sumptuous yet haunting atmosphere to the piece, yet never feeling overly grand or unnecessarily showy.

Katherine Waterston plays the grieving Abigail in The World to Come
(Image: YouTube/Bleecker Street)

Vanessa Kirby plays the vibrant Tallie in The World to Come
(Image: YouTube/Bleecker Street)

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But what if the performances? Katherine Waterston is wonderfully subdued and brittle as Abigail and captures the nuances of her character’s reawakening thanks to Tallie’s arrival in her life.

Elsewhere, despite not reaching the heights of her performance in her recent drama Pieces of a Woman, Vanessa Kirby still offers strong work as the troubled Tallie; but sadly her part is not as fleshed out as Waterston’s.

Yet, the pair carry a warm and subdued chemistry that suits the two lovers so well, particularly as events in the story spiral into dangerous territory.

Casey Affleck plays Abigail's solemn husband, Dyer, in The World to Come
(Image: YouTube/Bleecker Street)

Christopher Abbott portrays Tallie's abusive husband, Finney, in The World to Come
(Image: YouTube/Bleecker Street)

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The two shooting male performances are also well-realised; with indie darling Christopher Abbott nailing the insufferably controlling husband to Tallie, while Casey Affleck offers a quiet nobility and sadness to his character, Dyer.

The film also, similarly to director Francis Lee's fellow lesbian costume drama Ammonite, works better when recognised as a character study of its lead heroine, who here is undoubtedly Waterston’s Abigail, as her journey is the most rewarding even when we see her hardships.

Ultimately, The World to Come is a gorgeous romance that utilises myriad cinematic skills and, despite some minor weaknesses, is a moody and superior period drama.


The World to Come is a beautifully realised drama detailing a hidden and burning desire with strong lead performances from Katherine Waterston and Vanessa Kirby.

The World to Come premiered at Venice Film Festival 2020 and was shown at Sundance Film Festival 2021. It will be released in the UK on April 2, 2021.