BEIRUT: Based on the popular U.K. television series of the same name, WIDOWS is directed, co-written and produced by Academy Award-winning filmmaker Steve McQueen, whose film 12 YEARS A SLAVE won the 2013 Academy Award for Best Picture.
The film centers around three women who come from completely different backgrounds, struggles, and perspectives on life, who connect after their husbands’ die as their lives are placed on the line, politicians clash, and their stories unfold.
What makes this film work narratively from the get-go is the fact that it is so powerfully grounded in its own reality and nothing ever feels out of place – but rather the film functions as a window for the audience to look into and witness four strong women who are caught up in a world of corruption, pain, and vengeance.
With many heist films already archived within the minds of audience members, co-writers Steve McQueen and Gillian Flynn, who wrote Gone Girl, offer the audience a new twist on the genre’s conventions.
Instead of having these women come together due to one being a thief, the other a safe cracker – pieces in a clichéd puzzle – they instead come together because it so happens that they are all connected by their husbands.
The narrative takes its time and the team up of McQueen and Flynn as co-writers works really well here for many reasons.
Flynn is well-versed in writing complex mystery novels with even more complicated female characters, fleshes out a tightly bound web that intertwines and unravels in a very masterful way.
This paired with McQueen’s handling of the cinematic aspect of the narrative balances out the two voices and allows for a unique experience.
WIDOWS does its share of hand waving when it comes to racial issues, as well as women’s issues – and though the majority of it works well within the context of the narrative, there are a few moments that do come out of left field and as a result feel rather forced.
When screenwriters and filmmakers throw in moments to further push a particular ideology or political message, many times these moments do not land fully because they appear convoluted and ingenuine.
Yet, when looking at the bigger picture, the WIDOWS screenplay holds up and that is all thanks to the performers as well as McQueen’s vision.
The ensemble here is magnificent.
WIDOWS exhibits the best performances given by both Viola Davis as well as Liam Neeson, whose latest involvements in cinema have been recycled action films.
Seeing Neeson in this film and how much inner turmoil he embodies definitely is a breath of fresh air, and as for Viola Davis, I believe this will garner her a Best Actress Oscar nod and possible win, her work in this film is spectacular, confident, vulnerable, and empowering.
The surrounding cast, from Michelle Rodriguez to Robert Duvall, give it their all – and what is interesting to note is the fact that every single one of the actors performs the most naturalistic characterizations without any effort.
The audience connects with these characters from the very beginning to the very end.
At times all the technical elements fade into the backdrop and you are left witnessing real people on the screen going about their complex lives – and this makes for an encompassing cinematic experience.
Visually, McQueen brings his unique eye into the world of heists and the ruthless streets of Chicago.
Cinematographer Sean Bobbitt uses diverse subtle ways of showing the differences between the very rich and powerful to the poorest and least powerful members of society.
He uses the techniques within the lighting where he emphasizes a little bit with the richer characters with more warmth in their life and more ordinary colors, then, as it becomes poorer, he starts to mix colors and that chaos within that world.
Bobbitt and McQueen also use long takes which draw the audience’s attention more towards the detailed content rather than distract and in a film like WIDOWS it is of the utmost necessity – the story is in the spotlight.
Hans Zimmer returns to his roots with a melancholic score that fluctuates between helplessness and hostility adding an extra layer to an already commanding film.
A pulse-pounding socially-conscious film that does not rely on its ideology to represent it but rather on its skillful storytelling, powerhouse performances, and masterful directing.
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