Widows - Review
by Martina Hysi
Veronica Rawlins (Viola Davis) shares a passionate kiss with her husband Harry Rawlins (Liam Neeson) when a violent screech shatters their peace. A crowd of men in black hurriedly drag someone who’s been shot into the back of a van. Something has gone very wrong. The ephemeral shots of our lovers are interspersed with these images of intense violence – a car chase, an explosion, the sounds swelling until they dissipate.
Veronica lies on her large white bed, in her large, white room. She is alone. These are the beautiful, gutting images that welcome the viewer into the story, which is in equal parts about race, the corruption of power, the severe wealth disparity of Chicago, love, loss, and about how we do not ‘expect [women] to have the balls’ to do much of anything. Steve McQueen reinvents the heist movie by radically remodeling the axis around which the story revolves. This perspective is stark, and absolutely dedicated to telling the truth.
Veronica must now handle her husband’s unfinished business, which includes $2 million in debt. This debt is owed to Jamal Manning (Brian Tyree Henry) running for office, whose brother, Jatemme (Daniel Kaluuya), runs a very effective and brutal operation in ensuring his success. There is no one and nothing left to help her, except for a small notebook her husband has left her. Viola Davis is incontrovertibly the master of meaningful silences. Her eyes betray Veronica’s bottomless despair as she cradles her dog in her arms, standing in front of a closed door, unable to move.
As I left the cinema, I realized my expectations for this film had been so heavily gendered. We know heist movies through the men who lead them: cunning men, men braving the odds, men bristling with adrenaline. The women of Widows are fragile, almost fatally unprepared and highly unlikely to pull this off. They do not hide it. They are not the perfect criminals from the very onset. They grow into whatever it is that they must do to survive. In this way, they are badass. In fact, they have damn well reinvented the concept.