BFI London Film Festival: Widows

Directed by Steve McQueen
Starring Viola Davis, Michelle Rodriguez, Elizabeth Debicki, Cynthia Erivo, Colin Farrell, Brian Tyree Henry, Daniel Kaluuya, Jacki Weaver, Carrie Coon, Robert Duvall and Liam Neeson
Screening at LFF October 10th, 11th and 12th 2018

by Joanna Orland

Academy Award winner Steve McQueen directs the hell out of this female-fronted heist thriller. Widows is stylish through and through, from its bold camera choices to its slick cinematography. The star-studded cast led by Viola Davis is excellent, featuring some Hollywood legends in minor roles. The acting is superb, especially Viola Davis as the grieving widow who leads her team of fellow widows in the heist of a lifetime.

After Veronica (Davis) loses her husband (Neeson) during a heist gone wrong, she’s approached by corrupt political candidate Manning (Henry) who informs her that she owes him two million dollars. With one month to pay back the money, she teams up with the other widows from her husband’s team to pull off a heist of their own. The women (Davis, Rodriguez, Debicki and Erivo) find empowerment and solidarity in working with each other, set free from their husbands’ tight hold on their lives.

Set in modern day Chicago, a city famed for its corruption, McQueen’s Widows offers a contemporary reworking of Lynda La Plante’s 1980s television series. With a local election as the focal point of the story, themes of political corruption and conflicts of race and class are brought to the foreground. The supporting male cast, featuring Colin Farrell and Robert Duvall as a political family who’ve long controlled their ward, adds an aggression and urgency to the film as these villainous roles are grounded in reality. Daniel Kaluuya, as Manning’s brother, takes his usual charm and turns it into something dark and sinister. Even without as much screen time as some of the other characters, his presence looms over much of the film.

But of course, the stars of the film are the women playing the widows. Viola Davis always gives an outstanding performance, and with Widows there is no exception. Lingering scenes of her grieving into a mirror or window reflection are captivating and I could watch them for hours. If the entire movie was her crying into a mirror, I would still give it as many stars!

The cast, the performances, the style and the surprises all make Widows a masterful thriller. The heist is as exciting as you’d hope for, with twists and turns abound. As crowd-pleasing as it is poignant, Widows is one of the most entertaining films of the year.


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