Widows is a film by Steve McQueen (Shame, Twelve Years a Slave) and it follows the lives of women who are left to deal with the emptiness and mess left behind by their criminal husbands after a heist goes wrong. It is written by McQueen and Gillian Flynn (Gone Girl, Sharp Objects) and stars Viola Davis in the lead role with her other widows, Michelle Rodriguez, Elizabeth Debicki, and Cynthia Erivo. We also see great performances from Liam Neeson, Daniel Kaluuya, Brian Tyree Henry, Colin Farrell, and more. As you can tell, every time I tried to stop listing actors, I just added more and that is because every talent on the screen embodied their roles, created real chemistries with their costars, and executed well-written dialogue that was always necessary.
Throughout the entire movie, McQueen makes it clear that every man sees himself as the center of this story. Whether it’s from the problems left behind by their husbands or the political campaigns taking hold of Chicago’s 18th ward, there are different ways that the women, the widows, are pushed into set-pieces. But through their acting and McQueen’s masterful writing, they are never once without agency and the audience quickly finds out that this is their story. More specifically it’s Veronica’s, as played by Viola Davis, story.
The widows may start at the mercy of their husbands’ narrative, but by the end, they are creating their own. There is something to be said for the ability of McQueen to make each woman shine and have their stories start and come to a conclusion in a full way by the end of the film. Ensemble casts often become bloated in heist movies, leaving little room for development. But in Widows, McQueen blends drama with the heist and each woman feels like a fully realized character. While I do wish I got to see more of Erivo’s character Belle, whom I fell in love within the trailers, the movie’s reasons for this make sense and I can’t complain.
The acting on all points is phenomenal and Davis’ acting reaches through the screen and grabs you. From displaying pure joy and love to screaming in grief, and showcasing fearlessness in high-stress situations, Veronica is a woman who shows every side of herself. We see vulnerability and grief but we also see joy and determination. After her performance, those delivered by Debicki and Rodriguez also showcase the detail into the women’s lives that McQueen thought through when bringing them to life. Rodriguez’s performance stuck with me after watching the film in a special way.
I’ve been a fan of Rodriguez since I saw her in Girl Fight, the coming of age story about a teenage girl turned boxer and her neighborhood. But she plays to a type, very specifically choosing roles that never cast her as the hyper-sexual Latina, attempting to play against stereotypes that are pervasive. She’s always the “tough girl,” fighting without hesitation, and rarely taking on vulnerable roles. In Widows, Linda, Rodriguez’s character is a far cry from her other roles.
Extremely feminine, emotional, and someone who has been hurt by gang life before. Her lines were well delivered and the display of emotion is something I hope to see Rodriguez enter again in future films. She’s a great tough girl, and that’s why I’ve looked up to her and saw myself in her characters, but she can be more than the strong female trope and this role shows that. This was a big turn for Rodriguez’s acting career and it paid off. If you’re looking to hear more about her transformation and working with McQueen, you can read her interview with Vanity Fair here.
The men also have strong performances, specifically Kaluuya as Jatemme, a right-hand man who is quick to violence in a way that is terrifying. His character’s presence makes you sit up straight when he comes on screen and his acting demands attention. And ultimately the interactions between each and every character whether they were on screen for 20 minutes or one minute is something that will make me watch this movie again.
Widows also clearly takes place in the real world with issues around racism, political corruption, abuse, and sexism are all there, told through subplots and character interactions. The world of Widows is one that those in the audience will recognize despite the grand heist which solidifies the film for me as an award season contender. That being said, speaking on a lot of these dynamics will spoil a lot of the twists, turns, and reveals – which are all masterfully done. I honestly expect nothing less from this great cast of actors and McQueen and Flynn’s partnership on the script. I can’t recommend the movie enough.
Widows is in theaters now.
Widows also clearly takes place in the real world with issues around racism, political corruption, abuse, and sexism are all there, told through subplots and character interactions. The world of Widows is one that those in the audience will recognize despite the grand heist which solidifies the film for me as an award season contender. That being said, speaking on a lot of these dynamics will spoil a lot of the twists, turns, and reveals – which are all masterfully done. I honestly expect nothing less from this great cast of actors and McQeen and Flynn’s partnership on the script. I can’t recommend the movie enough.
Kate is co-founder, EIC, and CCO of BWT. She’s also a Certified Rotten Tomatoes Critic, host, and creator of our flagship podcast, But Why Tho? and Did You Have To?. She also manages all PR relationships for comics, manga, film, TV, and anime. She has an MA in Cultural Anthropology and Religious Studies focusing on how pop culture impacts society.