" Women Talking '

“What follows is an act of female imagination,” declares a tile card at the beginning of Women Talking

It’s an accurate description — the feature is writer-director Sarah Polley’s adaptation of a novel by Miriam Toews, centered on the female members of a Mennonite colony

But those opening words are also a taunt and a challenge: The women are sorting out their response to years of calculated sexual abuse

years in which the male leaders of their sect silenced their complaints by insisting that the horrors they experienced belonged to the realm of demons or the “wild female imagination.

At the core of Polley’s smart, compassionate film is the belief that in movies and in life

words can be action — and for people who have been denied a voice, they can be revolutionary.

The philosophical and sometimes faith-steeped bent of the women’s discussion might put off audiences not willing to go there