WIDOWS – Review by MaryAnn Johanson

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“This is not your world,” someone — a man — says to Veronica Rawlings in the aftermath of the death of her husband, Harry. The man is talking about the Chicago criminal underworld in which Harry was a very successful mover — until, it seems, he no longer was; his work is what got him killed — but he might as well be talking about the whole big wide world. That world, the world, belongs to men. And women exist in it only at the sufferance of men. It’s what the men here think, and it’s even what the women think, or are at least resigned to… and this isn’t too far from what too many people in the real world think, too. But then suddenly the women here have had enough of this shit.

Director and cowriter (with Gillian Flynn) Steve McQueen opens his Widows with a stunner of a sequence that intercuts the home lives of Harry’s gang of thieves with their last job later that night: a very sexy wakeup with Harry (Liam Neeson) and Veronica (Viola Davis); an argument over money between Carlos (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo) and Linda (Michelle Rodriguez); the morning-aftermath of Florek (Jon Bernthal) apparently having punched Alice (Elizabeth Debicki) in the face (she has a nasty black eye); and the cozy domesticity between Jimmy (Coburn Goss) and Amanda (Carrie Coon), whom he leaves caring for their newborn. The gang’s getaway from that job-gone-wrong is after-dark, gritty, and bloody; Harry and Veronica’s home life is sleek and soft and clean in their shiny penthouse overlooking Lake Michigan. It is family life and love interspersed with great violence; for Alice, the violence is mixed up in the love.

It is family life and love as a subset of the men’s world of aggression and crime and violence, as their retreat from “the real world”… or at least that would be the perspective taken by the typical movie about aggression and crime and violence, in which the women are bystanders but also the caretakers of men. And still, even here, in a movie very sympathetic to the women, a movie all about the women dealing with the world their men have left them, it is only with great difficulty that these particular women will later come together and do something for themselves. Or try to. Continue reading…

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MaryAnn Johanson

MaryAnn Johanson is a freelance writer on film, TV, DVD, and pop culture from New York City and now based in London. She is the webmaster and sole critic at FlickFilosopher.com, which debuted in 1997 and is now one of the most popular, most respected, and longest-running movie-related sites on the Internet. Her film reviews also appear in a variety of alternative-weekly newspapers across the U.S. Johanson is one of only a few film critics who is a member of The International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences (the Webby organization), an invitation-only, 500-member body of leading Web experts, business figures, luminaries, visionaries and creative celebrities. She is also a member of the Online Film Critics Society. She has appeared as a cultural commentator on BBC Radio, LBC-London, and on local radio programs across North America, and she served as a judge at the first Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Film Festival at the 2003 I-Con, the largest SF convention on the East Coast. She is the author of The Totally Geeky Guide to The Princess Bride, and is an award-winning screenwriter. Read Johanson's recent articles below. For her Women On Film archive, type "MaryAnn Johanson" in the Search Box (upper right corner of screen).