A heavyweight cast — including Viola Davis, Daniel Kaluuya, Liam Neeson, Jacki Weaver, Colin Farrell, and Michelle Rodriguez — propels Steve McQueen’s white-knuckle thriller (co-written by Gone Girl’s Gillian Flynn) about four women left in a deadly lurch when their criminally connected husbands are all killed.
Steve McQueen has won the art world’s Turner Prize and the film world’s Academy Award. But can McQueen blow stuff up? Can he yank audiences to the edge of their seats with a state-of-the-art heist movie? The answer, dear viewer, is hell yes. The director of the Academy Award-winning 12 Years a Slave continues to astound with what looks at first like a complete left turn into commercial action. But Widows serves up much more than jolts.
With Viola Davis at its core, McQueen’s latest digs deeper, revealing the heartbreak, the politics, and the mixed emotions behind the action. Veronica (Davis) lives an idyllic life in Chicago, ensconced in the loving arms of her partner, Rawlins (Liam Neeson), and in their luxurious condo. But Rawlins bought that cushy life robbing people. When a job with his gang goes fatally wrong, Veronica’s life falls to pieces. With a local crime lord (Brian Tyree Henry) and his muscle (Daniel Kaluuya) pressing her to pay Rawlins’s debt, Veronica sees only one option: round up the three other women who’ve slept for years next to these seasoned criminals, and make a plan to win their lives back.
Adapted from a 1980s-era British TV series by McQueen and Gone Girlauthor Gillian Flynn, Widows crackles with intelligence. Veronica and the other three widows (Michelle Rodriguez, Cynthia Erivo, and Elizabeth Debicki, the latter also at the Festival in Vita and Virginia) become linked by their money trouble, children, and the men that constrain them. A politician running for office on his family’s dynasty, Tom Mulligan (Colin Farrell) exerts a power both within and beyond the law. The result is a big, twisty, satisfying thriller.
Speaking at the press conference of the TIFF, the cast discussed their roles and how they found playing these characters. Viola Davis admitted that she thoroughly enjoyed playing ‘badass’ Veronica: “I love surpassing expectations. I love when people underestimate me. I think it’s only when you are in dire circumstances, that you see really what you are made of.” The actor admitted enjoying ‘kicking ass.’ “I love carrying the gun on me – not in real life of course. I carry this power in my own life.”
Whereas Michelle Rodriguez admitted she was utterly uncomfortable playing ‘strengths in vulnerability’. “I gotta say, it was tough. I had to pretty much murder my ego to play in this movie. There was a side of femininity that I guess I didn’t truly respect. The kind of femininity that I would find in my own mother. It was painful for me to play a character like that.
As to the director and what determined his choice in making this film, McQueen admitted that when he saw the original TV series growing as a child, he found their circumstances similar to his and “it spoke to him straight away”. The award-winning director was seemingly ’completely thrown off’ by the question from the audience about ‘women in his life who inspired him and who he draws his characters from’ After a long pause, the director admitted: “It’s just I’ve been so privileged to be friends with, to have a partner, mother, daughter who are great people who just happens to have vaginas. And I just feel like… you know… great. And, arm, that’s it really… And I have a willy”. Too much information Steve but we get you.