I don’t remember the last time I was more excited to go and see a film in cinema than with ‘Widows’; as, everything about this film seemed to point towards me loving it. It: received an astoundingly positive endorsement from my favourite film critic Mark Kermode; has an awesome trailer and poster; has an incredible 88% score on Metacritic; has a staggering 94% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes; went down a storm as the opening film at London Film Festival and features an outstanding ensemble cast, (featuring one of my favourite actors- Daniel Kaluuya.) The only sign that suggested this may not be my favourite film of the year, was the IMDb rating, of 7.4/10, which suggested something good but not incredible.
What is it about?
A heist gone wrong leads to the husbands of four women and 2 million dollars being blown up in a car when they are attacked by the police. The money stolen had belonged to Jamal Manning (Brian Tyree Henry:) a gangster trying to change his life by becoming Alderman of the 18th Ward- who needs the money to help with his campaign. As Harry Rawlings (Liam Neeson) had been the leader of the crew that had taken the money; the debt is pushed onto his wife Veronica (Viola Davis)- who has no way of getting the money back. However, when she finds the plans for Harry’s next job, she begins to devise a way to follow them through. The only people she feels she can trust are the other widows left by the heist. And although they are willing to help, with the promise of one million dollars waiting for them once the job is complete, the heist soon begins to develop unprecedented complications.
What did I think?
In the very opening sequence of this film: that intercuts intimate moments between the husbands lost in the heist and their wives, with the heist going wrong; I was constantly caught between avid engagement and relaxed sentimentality. This juxtaposition of emotions was not particularly frustrating, but left me feeling like the story could have benefitted from doing one thing at a time; (by handling the degrading heist first and then factoring in intimacies between the partners at the funerals.) Nevertheless, the individual scenes within this sequence were fantastic- specifically the car chase ones which were exceptionally visceral. Moving away from just the opening section of this film; I have to give it credit for a variety of other key aspects. First off, as I briefly touched on earlier, the acting from across the ensemble was a triumph. Personally I felt the standouts were: Daniel Kaluuya, Elizabeth Debicki and Viola Davis. Daniel Kaluuya stated in an interview that what made his character most horrifying was the fact that he feels entitled to commit all of his crimes. I felt the character’s sociopathic ignorance was exceptionally portrayed throughout the film; as, he was genuinely chilling with the way he carried out his actions with a complete lack of emotion. Elizabeth Debicki’s character development throughout the film is phenomenal, as she moves from: someone who is vulnerable and subservient to those around her; to being a key driving force in the heist’s advances. Although a lot of this is already scripted into her character I think the work she does to exacerbate her almighty character shift is fantastic. Finally, Viola Davis, who is at the centre of everything in this film, is just superb and deserves all of the praise she has received. I thought the film had good cinematography that allowed us to feel like: we were peering in on the secret meetings; just another observer in the crowd and a variety of other things depending on the situation. A scene that jumps to mind in this sense was a speech at a graduation ceremony that initially seems to be something from a broadcast, as all we see is the preacher’s face; but later expands to show we are actually in the same room as the speaker. The way this was revealed by a sharp expansions of the frame we view the room through, makes something seemingly innocuous seem dramatic.
Although the general trajectory of the narrative is absorbing and exciting, by the time the film ended I felt there were lots of loose ends that had been left untied which was incredibly frustrating. If you have seen the film then I think you will fall in one of three categories, either: you will hate it (as there is always a minority group of people that for whatever reason don’t like a film;) you will like the film but be frustrated by certain points (such as having unanswered questions left hanging at the end;) or you will love the film and think the ending has left you with a cliffhanger that allows you to reflect on your experience and think about the future of the characters. Unfortunately, I think I fall in the second category as although I think the film has a fantastic concept and is well executed; on too many occasions I felt slightly disengaged and wasn’t loving the film as much as I had initially hoped to.
So is it a brilliant film?
The thing about this film is I came away with such a mix of emotions that I find it difficult to articulate my answer with just a: yes or no. It has fantastic features, with a, superb story and outstanding acting; but at times felt a bit hollow.
My Rating: 7/10
This film is really good and I would suggest everyone go and watch it. However, I think the unattainably high expectations I held for the film going in, meant that I was disappointed when all I got was a good film. I liked being in the company of the actors and I thought the plot was exciting and well translated from the initial ideas of the TV show. But I didn’t quite feel the spark that would propel the film to excellence. So as a definite answer to the question posed above; I would have to say- no, it’s not a brilliant film. However, I may go and watch the film again to see how I feel upon reflection; as even now, I feel like it should be better than what I experienced on first billing.
P.S- I went to the toilet during this film and came back to a scene with one of the actor’s crying and had no idea what had caused this emotional outburst as it was never touched on again. If anybody has seen this film and remembers this scene then please do let me know what happened in the comments. (And if you haven’t seen this film then don’t go to the toilet during it as every moment feels vital to the plot.)