With great performances all round coupled with an excellent visual style throughout, it is a shame that the plot of Widows doesn’t quite live up to the promise. However, with a few excellent moments and a some very topical subject matter there is a lot to be enjoyed from the Steve McQueen heist film even with the knowledge that there was some potential lost here.
Widows is based off the book of the same title written by Lynda La Plante. The story follows Veronica, who after her heist-pulling husband dies inherits his debt to one of the local gangs. Forced to come up with at least two million dollars, Veronica finds the plans to her late husband’s next job and decides to pull it off herself.
The first feature film McQueen has directed since the Oscar winning 12 Years a Slave (2013), McQueen shines at getting the best performances out of his actors whilst simultaneously providing a subdued, but at the same time, visually stunning picture. The film also doesn’t shy away from representing the under-represented in modern day commercial Hollywood. McQueen arguably put himself on the world stage by doing the same thing with 12 Years a Slave and he does the same again with class. He is not trying to bash you over the head with these issues but instead simply presents them how they are and reveals how such issues can take a personal toll on a person.
Viola Davis steals the show as Veronica. Suddenly losing her husband and being forced into a world she doesn’t know anything about, Veronica comes across as brave and stubborn but also weighed down by the emotional burden she still carries so soon after the loss of her husband. Davis shows great range in the performance from the cold calculating boss to the terribly lonely widow. Michelle Rodriguez and Elizabeth Debicki also give excellent representations of the toll the modern world can take on a woman. Michelle Rodriguez plays Linda, made a single mum by the loss of her husband, struggling for money at the loss of her business. Debicki on the other hand plays the seemingly naïve young girl who has been raised to believe a man will always be there to provide for her but finds her own strength and begins to understand the control she has over her own life.
All characters are given room to breathe and develop in realistic ways that is a testament to the performances and the directing they were given.
However, whilst the main characters are well developed the plot comes off as a shallow. There are little to no problems with the heist itself during the build-up bar two and both are solved just as quickly as they appeared. A strange political race is also going on making up the backdrop for the main plot, which McQueen spends time on only to have it be inconsequential to the ending of the film. Furthermore, the film features an utterly uninspired twist that is executed quite poorly and makes very little sense given the foreknowledge the audience has about certain characters. The film lacks an intensity that one expects from a heist film. The plot moves along predictably and any adversaries or issues the characters meet are dealt with easily with little to no lasting consequences. The heist itself is all too short and seems to go off with barely a hitch and even that hitch doesn’t seem to have affected any of the characters in any meaningful way. It’s disappointing because of the excellent characters that are experiencing the plot, one leaves the theatre wishing they had a slightly more interesting story to tell.
Whilst the characters are excellently developed and well performed, Widows does leave a lot to be desired. There is little to no emotional pay off and the whole picture appears shallow by the time the credits roll. But a fantastic visual experience makes the film worth seeing, even if it’s not the best heist film to have come out this year.