Teaming up with Gone Girl author Gillian Flynn, McQueen adapts an unlikely source text – a 1983 ITV primetime series. The premise is unchanged: when three armed robbers are killed on the job, their widows must pick up the pieces to clean up the mess left behind. It’s a straightforward subversion in the heist genre, where the biggest explosions provide the starting point, and the men are very quickly left in the shadows. In 2018, this feels way, way overdue.
Viola Davis leads an all-star cast of women and the men who support and suffocate them. She plays Veronica Rawlins, the woman robbed of her grief when the demons left by her husband Harry (Liam Neeson) come knocking for their dues. Davis is no stranger to anger as her brilliantly harrowing performances in The Help and Fences have proven.
She’s joined by Elizabeth Debicki, an ethereal but no less poisonous weapon as Alice Gunner. Dismissed as a pretty face, she uses her body and navigates minefields of violence and intimacy with stirring power. Michelle Rodriguez is the third widow, Linda Perelli: a force of nature and troubling model of motherhood with a death stare that refuses to be ignored.
It would be easy to dismiss Widows as providing box-checking awards bait with big names and a reliable story. But despite the anticipation and support that lifts the project, what allows every word to ring true is the brutal violence that manages to surprise every sceptical thought and punish the assumptions ever stacked against a woman who has dared to love someone.
The film never loses credibility, as McQueen manages to mesh explosive entertainment with realistic politics of gender and societal injustice. The women at war remain engaging because the mission stems from something bigger than an impulsive, loyalty or an obligatory reaction of fear. It digs into reclaiming what they need and, finally, what they deserve.
Love and loyalty motivate the heist, but these emotions work against the players. This allows for more moments of comedy than the premise entails, with jabs at gun culture, stereotypical female weaknesses and the economy of online intimacy.
There's a difference between the ease in stealing and killing, and the force it takes to save yourself in order to be happy. Widows is a critique of everyday evils and betrayal; a searing lesson on how revenge and redemption go hand in hand. As topical as it may be, it's important to remember the film as more than 'a moment'. The reaping of this harvest is only just beginning.
Reviewed at the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival. Widows hits UK cinemas on 9 November 2018.
|What||Widows film review|
09 Nov 18 – 09 Nov 19, TIMES VARY
|Price||£ determined by cinemas|
|Website||Click here for more information|