One of the most satisfying feelings when walking out of a film screening is knowing that all the correct elements have fallen into place just as you expected they would. These expectations are created when the people behind film have proven themselves time and time again, to the point where you can’t help but expect a film of a particularly high quality to emerge. This was my expectation when sitting down to watch Widows. Directed by Steve McQueen, the academy award winning director of 12 Years a Slave and Shame, co-written by Gillian Flynn, the writer of Gone Girl, and staring some of our best character performers to date, with a line up including Viola Davis, Colin Farrel, Liam Neeson, Robert Duvall, Elizabeth Debicki, and Daniel Kaluuya, everything indicated that this would be an absolute powerhouse of a film. And thankfully, it was.
It is a movie that will pull you in and then refuse to let go until you’ve given it the attention it deserves
Widows is a gripping thriller. It is a movie that will pull you in and then refuse to let go until you’ve given it the attention it deserves. Helmed by some absolutely wonderful direction by McQueen, Widows is an expertly designed character study, dealing with a wide variety of increasingly heavy subject matters and yet, it never feels over-crowded or forced. It’s a film that has a huge amount of on-screen and which relishes using every ounce of this talent.
The film follows four women (played by Viola Davis, Michelle Rodriguez, Elizabeth Debicki, and Cynthia Evrio) who, after losing their husbands during a heist that goes wrong, are forced by circumstance, threats and the need to prove it to themselves, to use the plans left by the husband of Davis, played by Liam Neeson, to commit a heist that will allow each of them to put themselves back on their feet. Their plans become interwoven with the political campaigns of two men running for Governor, and with a crime boss who their husbands stole from.
as a viewer I couldn’t help but be sucked in by the complex and varied characters
One of McQueen’s main strengths as a director is to recognise a strong performance and he demonstrates this art expertly in the film. The acting in this film is utterly spectacular, with each actor demonstrating such an on screen presence and range of emotion that, as a viewer, I couldn’t help but be sucked in by the complex and varied characters. Davis shines as the central character ‘Veronica’, delivering moments throughout the film where, without any action or dialogue, she shows such extreme emotion and range, reminding you why she is one of our best actors to date. The rest of the cast are great to watch as well. Rodriguez, who is generally known for playing the strong and stoic action star, here plays a woman who is trying to find her strength. Debicki plays a woman overcoming cycles of abuse and belittlement, showing her growth in subtle but poignant ways, and Colin Farrell shines as a politician who, despite being rolled up in an embezzlement scandal, you cannot help but feel sympathy towards. This film is loaded with some of the best acting we’re likely to get all year.
Such incredible acting is reinforced by an incredible amount of character study and depth, due to some fantastic writing from Flynn and McQueen. No character is this entire film comes off as underdeveloped (with the possible exception of Duvall’s character, who even then is given a significant amount of character motivation), and everyone is given moments in the story to show how multi-faceted their characters can be. Everyone feels well rounded and genuine, everyone is given a strong amount of time to show their strengths and weaknesses and you come away feeling like you genuinely know these people and want to see them again. All of this character work and direction is emphasised with a subtle, yet emotive score from Hans Zimmer, a fantastic command and use of camera and pacing that, whilst particularly slow at times, allows you to take in the nuisances on screen.
the film does not shy away from intense themes and subject matter
Whilst the main focus of the film are the characters, the film does not shy away from intense themes and subject matter. Looking at topics like police brutality and profiling, nepotism and prejudice in politics, gentrification and violence against women, the film presents each of these issues as an unquestionable fact of reality, having them impact the story and worlds of the characters without taking time out of the narrative and going on unrelated tangents to focus on them. The effect of this is that the film forces the audience to think about how they respond to these issues, and the way they exist in our world. Widows isn’t going out of its way to make any strong political statement, but nonetheless it asks the audience to think about how they respond to the stimuli on screen and what they think the main issues are. It’s unquestionably an empowering film, showing the main characters using their femininity and the societal prejudices placed upon them to their advantages without being perturbed by their circumstances in order to succeed. Widows is an incredibly good movie that I cannot recommend highly enough. Clever but subtle, emotional but strong, it deals with big ideas and intense character in a poignant way that will leave an impact on anyone who goes and sees it.