Film re­view

A 1980s TV se­ries has been up­dated for hard-hit­ting drama on the big screen.

Australian Women’s Weekly NZ - - ON SCREEN - With KATE RODGER


Star­ring Vi­ola Davis, Michelle Ro­driguez, Liam Nee­son, Daniel Kalu­uya and Colin Far­rell. Writ­ten and di­rected by Steve McQueen.

Ido love a good tag-line and Wi­d­ows re­ally does de­liver on that front: “Left with noth­ing. Ca­pa­ble of any­thing.” And when we are talking about a script co-writ­ten by Gone Girl au­thor Gillian Flynn and di­rected by 12 Years a Slave film­maker Steve McQueen, with the Os­car-win­ning ac­tress Vi­ola Davis (Fences/Doubt) run­ning point, then ca­pa­ble of any­thing it is.

The Lynda la Plante ITV se­ries ran in the 1980s to crit­i­cal ac­claim and while that has dated con­sid­er­ably, the bril­liant bones of her story and its char­ac­ters still ring true as McQueen drags their heist tale kick­ing and scream­ing into the right here, right now.

This is as much a char­ac­ter study wrapped up in a bold so­cial and po­lit­i­cal cine­matic state­ment as it is about a rob­bery. That the heist still drives the nar­ra­tive for­ward with­out be­com­ing drowned in the vis­ceral machi­na­tions sur­round­ing it is some­what mirac­u­lous, but not sur­pris­ing. McQueen is a very sin­gu­lar voice in cin­ema, and a voice worth hear­ing.

At the top of this tale we see ca­reer crim­i­nal Harry Rawl­ings (Liam Nee­son) lead a vi­o­lent rob­bery to an ex­plo­sive end, leav­ing three very dif­fer­ent women with­out their men. As the wolves cir­cle, the wi­d­ows are forced into a very un­likely al­liance, with Harry’s wife Veron­ica (Vi­ola Davis) call­ing the shots. You might ar­gue that at least two of these women are far bet­ter off with­out their dead­beat blokes, but the joy here is watch­ing them work that out for them­selves. This story has so much to say about fe­male em­pow­er­ment and re­silience and it takes its time say­ing it. In the still­ness we see strength grow, a still­ness which also serves to mag­nify the sud­den, of­ten bru­tal, vi­o­lence.

Robert Du­vall and Colin Far­rell lead a strong sup­port cast as the Mul­li­gans, a fa­ther and son jostling for po­lit­i­cal power and re­spect. Run­ning against them for a slice of ground down in Chicago is a dif­fer­ent kind of crim­i­nal, the Man­nings. Ja­mal (Brian Tyree Henry) and Jatemme (Daniel Kalu­uya) can’t buy the power and the votes they need, but they are pre­pared to kill for them.

Both par­ties want the same thing the wi­d­ows want – the pot at the end of the rain­bow. Harry had planned one more big job, and they all want in on the ac­tion.

The fas­ci­nat­ing thing about this film is the resid­ual, very po­tent af­ter­math. Days later I am still im­mersed in their world, still bound in a way to these women and left want­ing more.

Don’t go think­ing this is the Oceans 8 we all re­ally needed to see, as that does this hugely sur­pris­ing film an enor­mous dis­ser­vice. See Wi­d­ows for what it re­ally is – a sig­na­ture slice of cin­ema with a col­lec­tive of pow­er­house women at its molten core, and they mean busi­ness.

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