Widows: Missing a Cohesive Narrative



“Widows” starts out like you would expect given the promotion material seen, despite being directed by Steve McQueen, director of the Best Picture winner “12 Years of Slave.”

A crew of men are pulling a heist. This is interspersed with shots showing the relationships each of these men had with their respective wives. The crew, led by Liam Neeson’s character Harry Rawlings, is being pursued through Chicago streets by police cars before seemingly managing to give them the slip.

Little do the crew members know, the police are waiting right outside their safe house as they switch vehicles and go down in a barrage of bullets and an explosion engulfes the crew and their money. The stage is set for the widows of these robbers to either sink or swim in the aftermath of their husband’s death.

From that point on, the film takes its time to slowly build up again. You see funerals for all the husbands and how they deal with the aftermath. Viola Davis’ character Veronica is given a key to a storage box where she finds her husband’s notebook with all their heists, including the next one, inside.

Little does she know, the money her husband stole belonged to former crime boss turned politician Jamal Manning, played by Brian Tyree Henry, who demands to be paid back in full.

She enlists the help of other widows, Michelle Rodriguez’s Linda trying to get her dress shop back, and Elizabeth Debicki’s Alice, whose abusive mother, played by Jacki Weaver, advises her to join a call girl service to make money.

Steve McQueen did an amazing job not only directing his actors, but also giving us shots and scenes filmed with meaning. In a tracking shot, Farrell’s Mulligan goes from giving a speech to a poor, run down neighborhood of Chicago to jumping in his car and getting to his nicely fenced and quiet neighborhood where he lives in just about four minutes which really give a feel for how the city of Chicago, where it is shot, looks and feels.

The screenplay, written by McQueen and “Gone Girl” writer Gillian Flynn, has its twists and turns, as you would expect from the writesuch as when a preacher talks to his congregation about what exactly has gone wrong with the world.

Some of the performances just take your breath away. It is almost a given nowadays that Viola Davis is fantastic in whatever she is in. All the hurt and pain in her past as well as being the knowledge of the gravity of the situation she is in, knowing that one misstep means either jail or a bullet, make her utterly fascinating to watch.

In small doses, Liam Neeson still shows he is not just an action movie star anymore and Elizabeth Debicki surprisingly becomes the linchpin of crew of widows with her character showing the strength to overcome her initial vulnerability.

I have to tip my hat to Daniel Kaluuya as well. His turn of Jatemme, Jamal Manning’s brother, is terrifying. Every scene he is in fills you with a sense of dread and you never know quite what he will do.

While all this is great, I still feel this movie might lose some people. As I stated before, the movie is built up as a heist movie and, if I am being honest, the vast majority of the film is dealing with the aftermath oft he husband’s heist and planning the widows heist with the two Aldermans’ campaigns as background.

When the heist does happen, it is the riveting, edge of seat thrill ride we all came to see. But for some, it just might take too long getting there.

While someone like myself thought the set-up for the heist was intriguing and thought-provoking, others might find that it drags, which I felt too in certain scenes. This movie might not be for everyone, and that shows in the box office numbers.

I still encourage people to check out as there are many things here that could resonate with many viewers, especially those living in the United States today. McQueen’s direction is fantastic and drama is blended with more action, popcorn-flick, thrills very well. While walking into this film I had very high expectations, it is safe to say I walked out having, for the most part, thoroughly enjoyed myself.

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