Directed by Steve McQueen, Widows tells the story of a police shootout that leaves four thieves dead during an explosive armed robbery attempt in Chicago. Their widows — Veronica (Viola Davis), Linda (Michelle Rodriguez), Alice (Elizabeth Debicki) and Belle (Cynthia Erivo) — have nothing in common except a debt left behind by their spouses’ criminal activities. Hoping to forge a future on their own terms, Veronica joins forces with the other three women to pull off a heist that her husband was planning.
Though Oscar-winner McQueen is best known for slower paced dramatic fare such as 12 Years A Slave or Shame, he brings a surprising depth to a film which could otherwise dwell in the sub-basement of pulp action films. Co-writing the script with acclaimed author Gillian Flynn (Gone Girl), McQueen’s thriller proves to be both gripping and engaging from the outset. Though on paper some may liken the film to this year’s ‘other female heist film’, Ocean’s 8, thankfully the comparisons end there. Widows is a smart, energetic thriller that makes use of an extremely talented cast led with ferocity by Oscar-winner, Viola Davis.
A tight, well-written thrill ride, what is most interesting about a film such as Widows is where it falls in the cultural spectrum. As female-led films have finally begun to be recognized for their success, there seems to have been a theme building momentum where women are encouraged to ‘find their voice’. Recent films such as A Star is Born, The Hate U Give to, yes, Ocean’s 8 have all provided opportunity for women to offer their stories in a male-driven culture. However, if these films serve as cries from the desert, Widows roars like a proud lioness. There is a beautiful but wild energy permeating Widows that reveals the strength, courage and power that women can wield when caught in a world dominated by male-oppression. When we first meet our leads, their identities are tied closely to the men that they love (especially Veronica). However, when threatened by mob boss Jamal Manning to recover the money that their husbands stole from him, they are forced to learn who they are apart from their spouses.
From Davis to Debicki (in what may be her breakout role), each female character finds different ways to stand-up against the emotional and physical barriers that have been placed on them by men misusing their power and authority. (With this in mind, it’s no accident that Davis’ Veronica growls that ‘no one thinks [they] have the balls to pull this off.’) Although they find themselves trapped in a ‘man’s game’, these widows prove that their identity and inner strength aren’t decided by a man’s world.
Armed with a whip-smart script and excellent cast, Widows is a film that will surprise you with its depth and emotional punch. Though more popcorn flick than Oscar-fare, the film shows the power of discovering who you are when you’re forced to start over.
Widows is in theatres now.