TIFF 2018: Widows

Liam Neeson and Viola Davis in Twentieth Century Fox’s WIDOWS. Photo Credit: Courtesy Twentieth Century Fox.

A trio of recently widowed women in the city of Chicago follow in their husbands’ footsteps by coming together in Widows.

The film has a few things going for it.  It’s not just tackling the women coming together and forming a heist of their own a la Ocean’s Eight but there’s also some political commentary.  The political commentary comes by way of how traditional Chicago politics are run.  We see this in how the Mulligan family has come to dominate the 18th Ward.  When Tom Mulligan (Robert Duvall) has a stroke, his son, Jack (Colin Farrell), decides to go into the family business.  He makes it clear that he’d rather be doing something else though.

Where the stories intercept are Mulligan’s opponent, Jamal Manning (Brian Tyree Henry, who acts in three films playing at TIFF), gets his money get stolen by Harry Rawlins (Liam Neeson) and his crew.  Rollins and company lost their lives in an explosion to kick off the fast-paced film.  When Manning and his brother, Jatemme (Daniel Kaluuya), come looking for their money, he sets a strict deadline.  Manning means business.  It’s up to Veronica Rawlins (Viola Davis), Linda (Michelle Rodriguez), and Alice (Elizabeth Debicki) to make sure that their futures are set for life.  Amanda (Carrie Coon) would rather have nothing to do with them and just live her life.

The four of them could not be any more different from each other.  They come from different areas of Chicago and a different economic status.  Yet they know how important the stakes are because it is a matter of life or death.

With several indies under his belt, Steve McQueen seamlessly transitions to a commercial film.  This film has quite a bit between the heist genre and commentary on social issues.  With all of that said, he’s certainly becoming a filmmaker you can count on to deliver.

McQueen co-wrote the script with novelist Gillian Flynn.  Together, they revamped the 1980s television series of the same name.  In doing so, they move it from London to present day Chicago.  With everything currently going on in Chicago, there’s a lot cultural issues at play.  The racial issues are certainly one of the biggest areas in which the film focuses on.  You have a politician who barely lives within the ward’s border who thinks he’s entitled.  Is he corrupt?  This is hard to say but there’s so much of Chicago politics at play.

The city of Chicago is as much of a character in the film as anything else.  The film is a fast-paced two hours with the only skyline shot coming about an hour and a half into the film.  If I wasn’t taking note of when this happened, I would have never glanced at my watch.  There’s such a large focus on other neighborhoods.  The South side of town is the big focus of the story with the city’s 18th Ward drawing lots of attention.  Even Chicago actors get some work in the film–such as Clare Cooney as Alice’s friend.

There’s a lot Chicago has to offer.  The city gets represented more so on the small screen but there’s more than just New York and Los Angeles.  Credit should go to both McQueen and Flynn for giving Chicago the spotlight.  For such a large population, it’s criminal how underused Chicago typically is on screen.  But when someone like McQueen comes around, they go above and beyond.

With sociopolitical issues at the core of this thriller, Widows is able to tackle many themes while planning a heist on top.

DIRECTOR:  Steve McQueen
SCREENWRITERS: Gillian Flynn and Steve McQueen
CAST:  Viola Davis, Michelle Rodriguez, Elizabeth Debicki, Cynthia Erivo, Colin Farrell, Brian Tyree Henry, Daniel Kaluuya, Garrett Dillahunt, Carrie Coon, Jacki Weaver, Jon Bernthal, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, with Robert Duvall and Liam Neeson

Widows held its world premiere at the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival in the Gala program.  20th Century Fox will open Widows in theaters on November 16, 2018.

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.

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