(Release Info London schedule; November 6th, 2018, Empire, Haymarket, 11:50)
When Harry Rawlins (Liam Neeson), Florek (Jon Bernthal), Carlos (Marvel Garvis-Ruffo) and Noel (Eric Lynch), four armed robbers, are killed in an explosive heist attempt, their widows, with nothing in common except a debt left behind by their dead husbands' criminal activities, take fate into their own hands to forge a future on their own terms.
Veronica Rawlins (Viola Davis) is the lead widow of the film who must pick up the pieces of her life after her husband, Harry, dies in a failed heist. She's sort of mysterious, but at the same time she's familiar to us. When you first meet them, the couple have already been damaged by a tragic death. They very much are bonded by grief. And then Harry dies in a heist accident and she’s left with nothing, literally nothing. Nothing in terms of finances and nothing in terms of even emotional reserve. But she decides to live. She decides to live by finishing the heist Harry was supposed to commit. Step one, employ her crew, the widows of Harry’s cohorts in crime. And people can roll their eyes, but something needs to be said about it, really. Because at what point in the history of cinema, have you seen someone who looks like Veronica and someone who looks like Harry in bed together, kissing, romantic, in love, married? Linda (Michelle Rodriguez) is a widow struggling to keep her family and dress shop afloat after Carlos death. She's a Latina woman, who faces the machismo of her culture. Ultimately, it's her decision to face her fears of the unknown that make up her mind. Linda is naïve and trusting when we first meet her. She got pregnant young in life and married her high school sweetheart, and was a mother very young. So, she didn’t really have much of an opportunity to decide, really, what she was going to do with her life. Her greatest manifestation is the story you see here. She’s a woman who’s loyal and loves her man and loves her family.
Alice (Elizabeth Debicki) is a 'Polish Immigrant and married to Florek. She's the least savvy, most sheltered of the widows. She has an incredible warmth and generosity and sensitivity and she's's also very exacting and instinctive in a fascinating way. She's rigorously in pursuit of truth in it's rawest form. When we meet Alice her world is very small and repressive. She's gone from living with her mother (Ann Mitchell) in a controlled environment where she's her mother's doll, to being dominated and controlled by her husband. She's very submissive, she can’t conceive of life being otherwise because she has internalized what others have told her about herself, that she's worthless and that she needs them in order to survive. She’s told she cannot be independent emotionally, financially, socially and she believes this. Alice's journey it's such a huge arc for her through the course of the story. She goes from being someone who has accepted what the world tells her she's daughter and then she's a wife, Something to be seen and not heard, a woman who mustn’t ask for what she wants or needs, to a woman taking control of her life. The process of joining up with the other widows and taking part in the heist develops her sense of self-worth and self-esteem.
Belle (Cynthia Erivo) is married to Noel. She's an ally who steps in to help the widows in their quest. Her character is strong and complex. She’s very straightforward. She's from 'The South Side' so she's no stranger to the danger that happens around her area. She's now a single mother, and she's a hairdresser but she's got smarts about her and she has almost no fear. She just knows what needs to be done in order to survive. That's where she comes from, so when she meets these women, it isn't a second thought that she's able to help. The one familiar element is that all of the men died in this fire, and they're all thieves. That’s the only thing that binds the widows together. And, also the fact that they're all broke and need to survive now. They're in a survival mode.
A politician who figures into the widows master plan is Jack Mulligan (Colin Farrell). His life is already mapped out for him based on his family lineage. The son of Tom Mulligan (Robert Duvall), Jack is meant to follow in his father’s footsteps by becoming the next alderman for 'The 18th Ward Of Chicago'. So, there's obviously this very distinct lineage that he's supposed to fall in line with, and Jack Mulligan is supposed to carry his father’s torch, his father who carried his father’s torch, but it’s not really what he wants. It’s not really what he’s dreamed of doing. Not only is Jack dealing with his own personal demons but he's running against an enigmatic opponent. There’s a shift in the power politic that is potentially happening, and the person who’s running against him is an 'African-American' gentleman from 'The 18th Ward', who has a history of criminality in his life. And he’s choosing to go straight, but he’s running against him. And 'The Ward' he's running to represent is predominantly 'African-American', and so it’s not looking good for him at all. Tom Mulligan is an elderly guy who’s somewhat ailing physically and still trying to keep some kind of control. Even though his son, they hate each other, love-hate, is really running the show, he’s trying to tell his son we’ve got to keep this city in our hold, in our grasps. It’s our city. We got to keep control and he doesn’t want to hear this, but they've a complicated love-hate, father-son relationship.
Jamal Manning (Brian Tyree Henry) is Jack’s political opponent in 'The 18th Ward' and a man to whom, Veronica discovers, Harry owes money. Henry says he knew he had to be a part of this special project. This is his home. You know, he says that to Jack. He’s like, you know, your family is on this ward, done all these things with this ward, but look at it. Like it hasn’t gotten anywhere. What have you really contributed to us? And that’s the best thing about Jamal is that he and his brother Jatemme (Daniel Kaluuya) they’re from these streets. They’re from this area. They really do care about the people there. Now, you know, as politics go, you kind of got to do what you gotta do to get where you want to get. He's also Jamal’s protector. It’s easy to think of Jatemme as the muscle, as you know, the bully or the henchman that does what Jamal wants, but Jatemme really wants the best for his brother and wants to be right there. Whereas Jamal loves him dearly, he’s using him as a pawn, but at the end of the day Jamal is going to do what he’s got to do to get where he’s going to get. But there's a true depth to their relationship there, cause it’s just been us. You basically see how they got to where they're, and Jatemme is one of the main reasons why and how they’ve managed to get the support of the community and the funding of the community through how Jatemme moves. And he basically does a lot of things he shouldn’t be doing. In addition to helping his brother politically, Jatemme is also responsible for muscling in on Veronica to collect the money Harry owes Jamal. Veronica’s late husband did something very not nice among brothers. And they want some payback. They’re just not going to let things lie. But it’s in the middle of a political election, so they've to do things in a bit more of a discreet way.
"Widows" is based on the popular U.K. television series of the same name, created by Lynda La Plante. The show transported us into a criminal world where the most vulnerable and overlooked people were women. These women were deemed incapable of anything other than being judged by their appearances, yet they took on challenges against their stereotype and transformed themselves into more than capable forces, determined to take their destinies into their own hands. Their adversaries considered the widows as people who couldn’t achieve anything, and they did. The film changes the location of "Widows" from London in the early eighties to Chicago of the present. "Widows" is set in contemporary Chicago amidst a time of political and societal turmoil. This is vital in order to also tackle politics, religion, class, race, criminality and mourning, and to look at the locale Chicago and revert it like a telescope into the global. And you just don’t see Chicago enough, the real Chicago in film.
How does Chicago relate to the story of the movie? And how do the film ties those two together visually and thematically and hold onto that in a way that's legitimate; in a way that doesn't feel like taking the ideas about what the place is, or the ideas about what it should be and laying it on top of what the city is, rather than trying to find out what's really here and finding out the truth of the place. Chicago has so many levels. Political, racial, religion, policing and criminality and how all of these networks at some point crossover and have a relationship to each other. You've this vibrant city with great restaurants and beautiful high-rises on 'Lakeshore Drive', and beautifully manicured lawns and, God, what a great artistic scene and all of that. But, you've the other. You've 'The Lawndales', 'The Garfield Parks', 'Fhe Inglewoods', you know, the neighborhoods that have a high crime rate. You've 'The Segregation', and that only happens with corruption. The film wants to understand when you cross lines, how things change and how neighborhoods change. Ultimately, the film showcases every part of the city. And each of the characters come from really diverse backgrounds. What's so exciting about it's the different stories of all these different women, and also Jamal Manning and also Jack Mulligan.
It's very challenging to say, how do you find each one of these stories? How do you keep them visually discreet from one another? For instance, with Chicago architecture, a lot of apartments kind of look the same, so saying okay, how you find these really radically different looking places for these different women and make them appropriate? You know, not making those random choices but finding each character in a different kind of a place. And having it be the kind of thing that the character needs. Veronica’s penthouse has a great quality, these floor-to-ceiling windows let in this incredible light that could turn the place very warm or very cold. It could be expansive and embracing the whole city, or it could be a box that's just reflecting back. That quality is something that's exciting to all of us, and the film ends up turning the glass windows into mirrors at different times to reflect the life held within rather than seeing out on the city. There are lots of different subtle ways of showing the differences, cause the story goes from the very, very rich and powerful to the poorest and least powerful members of society. And, there are subtle ways within the lighting where you try and emphasize that a little bit with the richer characters having a little bit more warmth in their life and more ordinary colors. And then, as it becomes poorer, you start to get mixed colors and that chaos within that world.
This is a heist film starring four women. The story offers a twist on the typical heist film in that each character that intersects comes from different ethnic, financial and social background. These women coming together, not because one is a jewel thief, and one is a safe cracker, that type of thing, but because they just happen to all be connected by their husbands. It's a group of ordinary women in extraordinary circumstances who've to fight for their survival. What’s so powerful about this story is that these four women from different racial, social and financial backgrounds came together to achieve their common goal. They understood that by working together they're capable of anything. When you watch the film, you’ll see there’s almost a mundane-ness to some of the stunts, to some of the action that happens. "Widows" is a real crowd-pleaser. It’s one of those films in which people are never going to see anything that’s coming. The film wants people to come away with a sense of awakening.