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Women Talking Dirty

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United Kingdom

Women Talking Dirty movie poster

Release date
1999 (1999)

Women Talking Dirty is a 1999 Scottish comedy film starring Helena Bonham Carter and Gina McKee. It is an adaptation of the novel Women Talking Dirty, written by Isla Dewar who wrote the screenplay as well. The film was screened at the Toronto International Film Festival on 17 September 1999 and released on 7 December 2001 in the UK.


Women Talking Dirty Women Talking Dirty


Women Talking Dirty Women Talking Dirty

Cora (Bonham Carter) is an aspiring biochemist and struggling single mother. She and Ellen (McKee), a shy divorced cartoonist, strike an unlikely friendship amidst their own personal betrayals and secrets.


Women Talking Dirty Women Talking Dirty

The story begins with Cora (Helena Bonham Carter) and Ellen (Gina McKee), two women in their thirties who are living in Edinburgh. While they are getting ready at a mirror they begin to discuss life and romance. The story then catapults itself into the past before the two women met and where their story really begins.

Women Talking Dirty Women Talking Dirty

Quirky Cora is an aspiring biochemist with intention to go to university but ends up taking a jump towards late teenage rebellion in which she tries drugs and drinks excessively. After moving in with her boyfriend, Cora discovers she's pregnant and immediately all her dreams are shattered as she becomes a pregnant housewife who is eventually dumped by her passionate but slovenly boyfriend.

Women Talking Dirty Women Talking Dirty

Ellen on the other hand is strait-laced and level-headed; a budding cartoonist with prospects to run her own business alongside her colleague Stanley (James Nesbitt). While out for a drink at her local pub, womanizing Daniel (James Purefoy), makes a pass at her and she is instantly smitten. Ellen invites Daniel to meet her very prim and proper mother who is instantly reviled by Daniel's revelation that he is writing a dissertation on the post-coital discussions women have with men after sleeping with them. Despite her mother's attempt to talk Ellen into dumping Daniel, Ellen decides to accept Daniel's marriage proposal and soon weds him, delighted with his wedding gift of a purple velvet Victorian style couch.

Not long into their marriage Ellen's hopes of having a family are forced out of the picture when Daniel reveals he doesn't want children. Despite being married, Daniel is still womanizing and gambling excessively (even stealing money from Ellen's purse). After a confrontation with Daniel after she discovers he has been cheating on her, Ellen walks out and goes to the pub to think things over where she meets heavily pregnant Cora. Despite their obvious differences immediately become friends and Ellen even becomes Cora's coach as she goes into hospital to give birth to her son Sam.

A year and a half later, Cora is given a night of freedom from her children when her parents offer to babysit, and she goes to the pub from which she calls Ellen's house to try and convince her friend to join her. Daniel, however, picks up the phone as Ellen is out. Daniel shows up at the pub to deliberately seduce Cora fully aware that the woman doesn't know what he looks like. After the one night stand, Cora is horrified when Daniel turns up at the café where she works and kisses Ellen in front of her; even more horrifying is the realization she has become pregnant once again, this time to her best-friend's husband. Although Cora decides to keep the child, Daniel decides he wants nothing to do with her, and refuses to even pay maintenance, leaving Cora once again a single mother with no additional income.

Years pass, and Ellen and Daniel are going through a rather messy divorce which is left slightly easier by the fact he has taken off to Barbados. Regardless of the hurt he has caused her, Ellen is still undeniably in love with him and still fully unaware that her best friend's youngest son Col is the son of her husband. Cora, on the other hand, is struggling with life still, and still depressed over the horrible guilt she has never been able to reveal to her friend the truth of her son's paternity. After Daniel makes a return, Cora realises that she is running out of time to tell Ellen the truth and all her friends and neighbours who are fully aware of what Cora did years before urge her to be honest.

While throwing a dinner party at her loft home, Ellen, Cora and some close neighbours become blindingly drunk, in which Cora finally confesses the truth at the dinner table. Humiliated, Ellen throws everyone out including Cora, and locks herself in her flat for days, becoming horribly depressed over the fact Cora had the son with Daniel that Ellen had always wanted. Daniel returns to Ellen following the dinner party although he finds immediately that he is unwelcome and Ellen doesn't want anything to do with him anymore. In the meantime, Cora develops a relationship with Ellen's co-worker Stanley and begins to feel more confident within herself and what she wants from life after a near-death experience. Finally she works up the courage to go to Ellen and apologise.

Regardless of their row, the two women manage to come to a mutual understanding just as Daniel bursts into the flat with a friend to remove the velvet couch he had given Ellen as a wedding present. After an argument between both women and Daniel ensues, Ellen forfeits the couch and throws Daniel and his friend out, immediately afterwards retrieving a bag from a cupboard which contains £25,000 which Daniel had won from gambling and stashed in the flat. Ellen splits the money, giving £13,000 of it to Cora to pay the maintenance Daniel had never paid for Col, and she takes the remaining money to the book-keepers where she bets the lot on a no-chance horse. Seconds after leaving the book-keepers she is approached by Daniel who has realised his mistake and is demanding his money back; Ellen hands him the betting slip and walks away with Cora, having finally got her revenge on him.


  • Helena Bonham Carter as Cora
  • Gina McKee as Ellen
  • James Nesbitt as Stanley
  • James Purefoy as Daniel
  • Freddie Highmore as Sam
  • Bertie Highmore as Col
  • Reception

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    Women Talking Dirty has received generally positive reviews from critics. On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has 2 reviews and they are both "fresh".

    Marie Claire described the film as "One of the best British films of recent years... Bonham Carter is hilarious". Jamie Russell of BBC gave the film 3 out of 5 stars and added "Women Talking Dirty is an above average relationship drama. It benefits enormously from the chemistry between its two female leads and an excellent supporting cast...". William Thomas from Empire gave the film 3 out of 5 stars and stated "One of those films which will keep perfectly well until the video release, but if you’'ve seen everything else, you could do a lot worse than give this one a go".


    Women Talking Dirty Wikipedia

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