Set in contemporary Chicago, amidst a time of great turmoil, Widows tells the story of four women with nothing in common except a debt left behind by their dead husbands’ criminal activities. Stuck between a rock and a hard place these women make the choice to risk it all in the hope of making a better future for themselves. And this film literally has everything going for it, from its brilliant ensemble cast, right the way through to its compelling source material.
Well established industry names though aren’t always a sure-fire recipe for success, in my experience, it’s actually quite the opposite of that which tends to be true. I’ve often found that films with an absurdly impressive cast struggle to deliver on the expectation that creates. It’s a general rule I have, but I was relieved to discover that Widows was a rare exception to that rule. Delivering on the promise and then some, but there’s someone I feel I must signal out and that’s the director Steve McQueen.
As a filmmaker, Steve McQueen has accomplished great things in a few short years and I’d say that all comes down to his ability to be so expressive in his filmmaking. There’s this one scene from Widows I’d like to highlight which has us following this politician leaving his campaign rally. After addressing a crowd full of people living in an area just riddled with crime and poverty, he gets in his chauffeur-driven car and begins a conversation with his assistant. Now, most films would have a camera inside the car cutting back and forth between actors, but McQueen goes for a far more creative approach and its pure unadulterated genius!
McQueen chooses instead to have a camera placed on the outside of the car, drawing our attention to the surroundings as buildings begin to change from seedy one-bedroom apartments to penthouse suites with gorgeously landscaped gardens. It’s a simple concept that winds up speaking volumes about the corrupt and hypocritical nature of politics and so much more. This conversation continues but in the bigger picture, it’s a minor detail whereas most films would have the conversation taking centre stage. Just like in life we sometimes forget that this isn’t everything and there is so much more happening out there if only you’d take a moment to look around.
Widows also has itself a very strong opening, I guess you could say it starts as it means to go on really, barely putting a foot out of place. My main criticism would be that it’s perhaps a little too long for the kind of film it is. There are some overly drawn out scenes in there, but it’s a tough call to make. The characters and city around them are so well fleshed out, cutting out too much could sabotage that. There’s a lot to take in with Widows, it’s one of those films you certainly need to be in the right mood for. However, if you get the chance I would without a shadow of a doubt recommend seeing Widows.