In 2014 Gillian Flynn set the world alight with her screenplay for Gone Girl adapted from her own novel of the same name. The film featured a breathtaking central performance from Rosamund Pike and acute directing from film-making royalty David Fincher.
Flynn has managed to catch lightning in a bottle twice in 2018, with her latest screenplay Widows. This film also features a stunning central performance, this time from Viola Davis and supremely confident directing from 21st-century auteur Steve McQueen.
Flynn and McQueen share writing credits for this modern-day re-imagining of Lynda La Plante’s 1980s TV series and seem to be a match made in heaven.
Widows opens with a heist gone wrong, turning three unsuspecting wives into widows in one fell swoop. Coming to terms with this loss Veronica (Viola Davis), Linda (Michelle Rodriguez) and Alice (Elizabeth Debicki) quickly realise that their husbands have left them in a precarious position, owing $2 Million to gangster turned wannabe politician Jamal (Brian Tyree Henry). This revelation kickstarts a series of events that sees the widows attempt their own heist in order to clear their husband’s debt and start their lives afresh.
The first thing that strikes you when watching Widows is the ensemble. This may well be the best cast film of the year. The core trio are phenomenal and give universally brilliant performances across the board. In addition, the quality of supporting roles in this film is staggering. Daniel Kaluuya is skin-crawlingly unnerving as the sadistic Jatemme. Cynthia Erivo is a force to be reckoned with as a single mum turned getaway driver Belle. Robert Duvall and Colin Farrel are hideously sleazy as the father/son political dynasty the Mulligans. Oh, and Liam Neeson is absolutely fantastic as Veronica’s husband Harry, who proves to be the catalyst for the films rip-roaring plot.
Widows is smart and self-aware in all the right ways. The film takes aim at issues that, in 2018, finally seem to be getting the attention they deserve. On the surface, it could be distilled to a ‘slick heist movie’ but it is so much more. Everything from corrupt politicians to police brutality is tackled in its 2h10m runtime. The film isn’t afraid to get nasty when it needs to and features scenes that will genuinely shock audiences, hopefully provoking some discussion of real-world issues long after the credits roll.
McQueen is a director who asks something of his viewers, the film doesn’t spell everything out for you, instead providing enough pieces of the puzzle that will encapsulate an attentive audience in the plots’ hair-raising twists and turns, and the topics it encompasses.
Finally, it would be impossible to end a review of this film without discussing its greatest strength, women.
The fact of the matter is that Widows shouldn’t stand out for its well written female characters. Widows shouldn’t stand out for presenting women as three dimensional, complex, engaging characters. Widows most certainly shouldn’t stand out for presenting women in a collaborative light rather than pettily competing against each other. But it does.
Widows is an incredibly refreshing film, but it shouldn’t be. Hopefully, sometime in the near future, we’ll be enjoying proper female representation in all films, but until then, enjoy Widows.