Best of The Fests: Widows (2018)
We are in the middle of the film festival season with Telluride, TIFF, and the Venice Film Festival all beginning and ending in the midst of one another. This is the time of the year when award buzz begins genuinely floating around as different anticipated films make their premieres. Some of these films go on to become nominees for an Academy Award or a Golden Globe, but there are also films that initially receive a lot of buzz that still fall between the cracks. While we have reviewed many of the most popular films throughout the year on our Movie Review Mondays, we thought it would be fun to explore some of these festival darlings that got lost in the mix. We can’t exactly review the films premiering this year, so we’ll look at a few that made their premiere at last year’s festivals.
The crime heist Widows made its premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival last year, and while it did have a lot of positive reviews, the film only managed to snag a few award nominations. Directed by Steve McQueen and written by McQueen and Gillian Flynn, the film is actually based upon a 1980’s British television series of the same name. The film follows four women in Chicago who find themselves forced to commit a heist for a crime boss after their husbands are killed stealing money from him. Viola Davis takes the lead as Veronica Rawlings with Michelle Rodriguez, Elizabeth Debicki, and Cynthia Erivo co-starring. The rest of the cast also included Colin Farrell, Brian Tyree Henry, Daniel Kaluuya, Liam Neeson, Garret Dillahunt, Carrie Coon, and Robert Duvall.
So, what made this Steve McQueen feature a favorite among critics?
While this is a heist movie, the cinematography and technical choices defy the genre. In fact, everything about this film is dark and gritty, and it’s surprising to see a heist movie more closely resemble the style of something like The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. The editing style is unique with the first five minutes sharply jumping back and forth between moments of Veronica and Harry and Harry’s heist going terribly wrong. The intriguing decisions continue in moments like Colin Farrell’s car ride, which visually focuses not on him talking but the path of the car through the different neighborhoods.
Steve McQueen is known for his unique directorial style, and he crafts an interesting film that contains a few playful moments in the midst of an immensely serious story. The film is full of decisions and moments that set a unique aesthetic, and it’s part of the reason the film created a lot of buzz.
Several Different Layers
In addition to its unique tone and style, the film takes a story about a heist and inserts so many different layers and commentaries within it. The women take center stage as they try to make this heist happen and attempt to survive in a man’s world. However, the layers go beyond this main storyline. It hits on the pain of loss and betrayal, the struggles of an interracial marriage, and the problem of police brutality. It also has this whole other component exploring power dynamics and the establishment of classes, and it is a fascinating thing to see all of these little themes emerge throughout the movie. McQueen and Flynn pack a lot into this story, and it is those additional layers that make it stand out.
I can be honest and admit that this movie moves excruciatingly slow for the first half of the film. It’s infuriating in the moment, but by the end of the film, you can see the completed puzzle and realize that no shot or scene is actually wasted. It’s a story where the audience has to play catch up, and there are a lot of blanks filled in along the way. There are some revelations that the audience can see coming, but there are also a few that are truly shocking.
At the end of the day, I can admit that I see how Widows was so well received last year. At the end of the day, the film is superbly crafted, and Viola Davis is dynamic in this role. Most critics loved it, and that held true as it hit theaters in November. However, its slow pace and unique aesthetics undoubtedly left some divisive reactions.
So, have you ever watched Widows? Did you find it as enjoyable as the critics did coming out of TIFF?
Comment, and let us know! And stay tuned next week as we explore another favorite from last year’s festival circuit.
Mollie is a film enthusiast, aspiring writer/screenwriter, and a lover of all things Harry Potter, Star Wars, and Doctor Who. She is the co-founder of The Digital Shore (@thedigitalshore) and Above The Line (@atl_movies). You can follow her many adventures through Twitter and Instagram at @mcbeach.