Representation matters, be it in relation to race, class or gender. 2018 has truly emerged as a year to show audiences just what it means to see themselves on screen. In his heist drama Widows, Steve McQueen presents leads which span not only diverse gender, but also racial groups. The film features rich and interesting characters through a human lens through which only a director like McQueen can harness. Here’s everything you need to know about Widows.
Widows follows the story of Veronica (Viola Davis) who organizes a group of women to stage a heist after their husbands are killed during a similar crime. They maneuver through the complicated and murky world of Chicago politics and organized crime, as they aim to take advantage of the system which seemingly forgot about them. Michelle Rodriguez, Elizabeth Debicki, Liam Neeson and Colin Farrell co-star. Steve McQueen directs the film from a script he co-wrote with Gillian Flynn.
Widows is a complicated and complex film examining not only gender dynamics, but also racial and social divides in contemporary Chicago. However, the merging of voices between Flynn and McQueen makes for fascinating cinema. Widows has McQueen’s depth, all the while bringing Flynn’s pulpiness. This immediately feels like McQueen’s most accessible movie, especially when weighed against his incredibly challenging Shame and Hunger. Widows is all at once witty, funny and intense, while still making a coherent argument about gender and the larger society around us.
McQueen combines with his creative team to craft a searing take on the social and economic state of our country. Cinematographer Sean Bobbitt and McQueen execute a stunning shot early in the film as Jack Mulligan (Colin Farrell) and his campaign manager leave an event. The shot remains on the windshield as their car winds through the Chicago streets, moving from a slum to an upscale neighborhood in only a couple of blocks. It’s a stunning scene in its simplicity. The audio follows a relatively mundane conversation between the two characters. Rather, the focus is just how close these two neighborhoods truly are, yet they are still separated by an expansive divide.
However, the combination of two such disparate voices does lead to some slight tonal struggles in the script. There are some plot points (which I won’t spoil here) which feel almost over-the-top as the narrative plays out on screen. As a result, some moments brought undeserved chuckles from an audience, out of mostly surprise. Though, at the same time, the twisting and turning nature of the plot serves to pull viewers in and you find yourself watching to see just what else is going to happen. This is Gillian Flynn’s work in a nutshell, and it does exactly what it needs too.
This is a big movie, with a large cast. While everyone gives spot-on performances, it feels like the script is trying to take on a bit too much. There’s a lot of characters here, and each are tremendously developed. However, not everyone gets quite enough screen time. While the narrative clocks in at a more than respectable two hours, it could have easily been longer and not suffered. Certain characters feel short changed, particularly Belle (Cynthia Erivo) and Tom Mulligan (Robert Duvall). Ultimately, while the work is good, the structure of the film (and the massive size of the cast) leads to certain characters feeling ignored in the narrative, leaving the audience wanting more.
Stepping away from the ladies for just a moment, with this role, Daniel Kaluuya continues to show just how darn good he is. The young actor emerged onto the Hollywood scene with his role in the 2017 horror movie Get Out, which secured him an Academy Award nomination. Taking on the role of Jatemme Manning, shows his Oscar nomination was not only well-deserved, but the young actor will likely be earning many more before his career wraps up. Kaluyya is a scene stealer in Widows, seemingly crossing his charisma and likability, with an almost terrifying evil. He absolutely throws himself into his role, and it seems a shame he’s not seeing more attention as award season gets underway.
In a cinematic climate where women led films are growing in not only popularity, but importance, there’s a refreshing realism to Widows’ narrative. The women at the center of the story are allowed to be human beings. The emphasis here is the construction of the characters, not crafting a glitzy and glamorous facade meant simply to appeal to the male gaze. Instead, audiences are allowed to see who these women are, what makes them tick and just how they’re changed by the events going on around them. McQueen and Flynn’s voices combine well with their ultra-talented cast to tell this story, truly bringing these women to life.
Please get out there and support original cinema. We all find ourself whining about the abundance of remakes, reboots and sequels constantly hitting the movie theaters, and Widows is a clever, adult, non-tentpole film. Steve McQueen is one of the most innovative and talented story-tellers in the film industry and with Widows he’s crated an interesting, pulpy and above all, real story.
Widows is in limited theaters around the country now.