If you’ve been following me for a while, or know me in real life, you’d know that my excitement for Steve McQueen’s new film Widows has been building for approximately a year now. I even featured it in my Films To Look Forward To: Volume 1 way back in April, and finally, I got to see it last night.
Based off a British TV from the 1980s by Lynda La Plante, Widows follows a group of women recently bereaved after their husbands die in a fiery robbery gone wrong, who find themselves getting all the wrong attention from all the wrong people. Desperate and out of options, they join together to pull off a heist that allow them enough money to not only pay back their debtors, but also create a life and purpose of their own.
What McQueen and screenwriter Gillian Flynn (her of Gone Girl excellence) have managed to do is craft a heist film that stretches far beyond the restrictions or conventions of the genre. Widows reflects on race, police brutality, male dominance and toxicity, and politics with a easy wave of it’s hand – all these themes are central to the plot, but rather than overshadowing the plights of the women they enrich the film for the better.
The cinematography is sleek and sharp without a loss of emotion or warmth – sleek white apartments and glass fronted buildings contrast with the chaos of a dress making business, the intimacy of a church, the familiarity of a hair shop. One remarkable single short depicts a journey from the inner city to the plush suburbs from a car, the disembodied voices inside discussing politics and heritage, a simple move that highlights the hypocrisy and imbalance of the political system. McQueen is unafraid to linger on the faces of the four main protagonists as they move seamlessly from composure to all encompassing grief, to steely determination.
And what an incredible cast they are. Viola Davis shines in the role of Veronica Rawlings, a woman unafraid to push, demand and threaten to get the security and help she needs. She transforms into the leadership role with ease, without losing any of her femininity – she is allowed to threaten violence or demand help dressed elegantly in a white suit and heels, yet she is equally comfortable and commanding in a undershirt and simple black when it comes to pulling off the heist. Michelle Rodriguez and Elizabeth Debicki blend vulnerability with steely determination – each determined to take back their lives and future after being mistreated and betrayed by the men in their lives. And Cynthia Ervio is a revelation – the hardworking single mother whose simply aims for a better life – every flicker of emotion is captured in her expressive eyes.
The rest of the cast too is incredible – Daniel Kaluuya as Jatemme Manning – a terrifying whirlwind of a man, who stalks the city waiting to strike, Bryan Tyree Henry as his brother Jamal, a man wanting to better himself and his community and willing to stop at nothing to achieve it, and Colin Farrell and Robert Duvall as the Mulligans, a political dynasty who are determined to maintain their power in the city.
And a special mention goes to Olivia the dog, whose presence in every single scene she’s in brings pure delight to everyone.
I’ve never seen a film like Widows, or been in a cinema where every single person is so transfixed by a film that you can hear a pin drop once the credits roll.
If you haven’t already, please, please, please watch Widows this week.