“Widows” are Women: Real, Badass Women
By Alicja Ramotowski
“Widows,” based on a 1980s british television show, written and directed by Steve McQueen is a thrilling drama/mystery with a surprise behind every corner. The plot revolves around the lives of three women—Veronica (Viola Davis), Linda (Michelle Rodriguez), and Alice (Elizabeth Debicki)—who are brought together by the death of their husbands; however, do not be mistaken as this is not that lovey dovey, finding strength in each other kind of movie.
The movie starts with a passionate kissing scene between Veronica and her husband Harry Rawlins (Liam Neeson), in a fancy penthouse -- a fancy, happy life. The utopia is soon broken by flashes to the night that it all goes wrong. Harry, a successful criminal, has himself one too many drinks. He steals money from Jamal Manning (Brian Tyree Henry), who is running for alderman of his ward. After the final heist, four women are left widows, and Veronica inherits the $2 million debt to Manning. Manning has been mixed in with criminal activities himself and is ruthless when it comes to his campaign, as it is his only way to a better life.
Veronica is familiar with the twisted world of crime and politics in Chicago and realizes the severity of Manning’s threats. A job like this cannot be pulled off single handedly; Veronica contacts the other widows, and after some convincing, two women agree to join. With nothing more than a notebook full of robbery plans and their own intuition to go on, the women must take matters into their own hands and maneuver the tricky, tangled up political, criminal system of Chicago on their own.
There are many obstacles for the women to face, particularly their own inner struggles, as well as real life conundrums. Veronica’s character often has flashbacks to her prior life, to the murder of her son, and her “happy” life with Harry. We get to see the strength Veronica has in her, the will to live, the strong notion that she has to keep going.
As many critics have acclaimed, the movie is a new level for McQueen. His previous movies include, “12 Years a Slave” which received countless Academy Award Nominations, “Shame,” and “Hunger.” It does not lose sight of the provocative nature of his movies, compelling the viewer think critically about the issues raised while also remaining a popular crowd pleaser.
“Widows,” to some a corny drama/mystery film, has much more meaning to McQueen. The writer and director himself grew up in a neighborhood in London where drugs and gangs are prevalent, and experienced the issues presented in “Widows” firsthand. In an interview McQueen said, “It’s gotten worse, hasn’t it? The economic situation goes hand in hand with racist outbursts. Everything’s political: policing is politicized. Everything is interlocked and it has to be untangled. It’s very similar to how I grew up, but in Chicago it’s amplified.”
McQueen is devoted to telling the real story, illustrating a real narrative. His movies are raw and refreshing, and his unique style continue to surprise audiences and the cast alike. Viola Davis—the main character in “Widows”—explains that McQueen, “sees the parts of you that nobody else sees.” She fondly recollects a conversation she had with the director. Playing the lead in the movie, Davis expected to have to conform to the the images and personas that she frequently embodied before. Instead McQueen told her, “I want you to wear your [real] hair because that woman exists. She never gets introduced in the American cinema. It’s time we introduce her.”
“Widows” is definitely a unique film that is hard to find in today’s cinema industry, which generally focuses solely on pleasing the masses and turning a profit. The movie was born from real life experience and turmoil, and it can be felt. A movie with plot twists, character growth, and an authentic Chicago feel, “Widows” is definitely a good choice for your next movie night out.
Director: Steve McQueen
Written by: Steve McQueen, Gillian Flynn
Release Date: November 16, 2018
Rating: R for “violence, language throughout, and some sexual content/nudity”
Starring: Viola Davis
Duration: 2 hours 8 minutes