Steve McQueen always makes me think of the vulnerabilities people hide underneath trained & tested masks, some of them wounds of innocence, some consequences of horrible circumstance, but always so thoroughly, unapologetically human. Never a false note in any of the characters he brings to screen, nor a glimmer of dry judgement, only a bloody, throbbing sadness at the way things inevitably pan out because humans are what they are.

And so it is in Widows (2018), a Chicago remake of an ITV oldie, a 1980s power tale of women taking charge where men fail, but really a study in situationism, what each of us is capable of given the set of conditions that beset us. Where we step up, and where we lose our humanity towards another – and how thin is the line between the two.

Viola Davis is relentlessly to the point, a woman who loves, grieves, is terrified, and confused, and yet is steely in her newfound awareness of how close her life has come to oblivion – a subjugation to a fate that was not even of her own making, but rather of her own willing blindness. In order to be with the man she loved, she had to choose not to see – and was left in the dark.

All the widows’ performances are honed to perfection, achieving something truly miraculous nowadays – exhibiting agency without arrogance. The women seize their power back through acceptance of culpability in their circumstance, and yet do not make themselves martyrs to their own mistakes. They do not allow victimisation. That’s something close to diamond in a world that so efficiently and consistently brings about the worst.

To be soft and strong at the same time, to push back yet have integrity, to look within, find the weakness, honour it with intent, then take the consequences, be they what they may – that’s what I came out with after watching this genre gemwork.

It makes a difference that it’s a heist film with full on female roles front seat and centre, and equally strong male counterparts in the shadows – in essence, that it actually talks about people. Times are maybe, finally, changing.


Author: ©Milana Vujkov

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