Widows

Movie review by
Michael Ordona, Common Sense Media
Widows Movie Poster Image
Above-average crime drama has language, violence, sex.
  • R
  • 2018
  • 129 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

This is a crime story, so positive messages isn't the movie's core mission. That said, there are clear moments of female empowerment.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The women are tough and generally show courage and engage in teamwork to rise above their situation, but the way that they do it muddies how "positive" they can be considered as role models. Seemingly every man in Chicago is corrupt, with the exception of one nice guy who may be suffering from a form of long-term cognitive damage.

Violence

Several people are shot (most fatally) on screen, often lingering on blood. Others are killed in a fiery explosion. A character is hit. A character is repeatedly stabbed. A character uses a taser a security guard. One dies in a car crash. Evidence of a wife having been beaten by her husband. Two women slap each other. Cruelty to a dog. Graphic photographs of implied incest used for blackmail. A woman is groped. 

Sex

A sex scene includes naked breasts and bottom. Pre- and post-sex moments (including fondling) without nudity. Posters of topless women. Sexual language.

Language

Frequent profanity, including "f--k," "s--t," "a--hole," "bitch," "c--t," "c--ksucker," "p---y," "d--k," "d--kheads," "balls," "piss," "hell," "Christ," etc. Also slurs, such the "N" word and "gay" as an insult.

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Drinking by adults. A character smokes.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Widows is a mature crime/caper thriller in which a group of women (Viola Davis, Michelle Rodriguez, and Elizabeth Debicki) whose criminal husbands all died on the same job decide to work together to pull off a big heist so they can pay their debts. Violence includes bloody shootings (many of which are fatal), a deadly explosion, evidence of physical abuse against women, brief animal cruelty, and more. You can also expect frequent strong language ("f--k," "s--t," the "N" word, and and more), and some drinking. A sex scene includes naked breasts and a bottom. Colin Farrell, Daniel Kaluuya, and Liam Neeson co-star.

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What's the story?

In WIDOWS, when a Chicago woman named Veronica (Viola Davis) loses her husband, Harry (Liam Neeson), in a heist he masterminded, she finds herself responsible for his debt to local crime lord Jamal (Brian Tyree Henry). Veronica recruits the widows (Michelle Rodriguez, Elizabeth Debicki) of the other men who died on the same job as Harry to pull off another heist that he had planned. Meanwhile, Jamal runs for office against corrupt Jack Mulligan (Colin Farrell), and Jamal's brother, Jatemme (Daniel Kaluuya), keeps a menacing eye on the women.

Is it any good?

This heist movie is based on a 1980s British TV show, but thanks to director/co-writer Steve McQueen's talent, it has more emotional and sociopolitical resonance than you'd expect from the genre. It doesn't hurt to have a cast this good; in addition to the headliners, Widows also features Robert Duvall, Jackie Weaver, Carrie Coon, and Garret Dillahunt. Dillahunt, especially, continues his string of sympathetic performances, and Tony winner Cynthia Erivo is memorable in a scrappy role. Davis, of course, ably carries the weight as a woman figuring out a life-or-death puzzle on the fly as she mourns her beloved husband ("We have a lot to do, and crying is not on the list"). Debicki shines as the widow with arguably the longest arc, going from kept woman who accepts beatings as part of the deal to becoming an important cog in the movie's ad-hoc criminal machine. The Chicago setting is carefully chosen; the city's troubled reputations of ingrained corruption and street violence are woven into the story's fabric.

However, that fabric has perhaps too many diverse threads for a two-hour-plus tapestry. The political machinations end up feeling like another movie -- it's the kind of subplot that might have played out more powerfully in a miniseries format. The movie's Big Twist feels pretty obvious, and the entire impetus for the story is actually left unaddressed at the end of the film, which is a problem for a heist movie. It's also presented in such short, episodic bursts (probably due to the large number of characters and plot threads) that it can feel choppy. Still, the strong performances, grounded world, and clean, matter-of-fact direction by McQueen easily elevate Widows above most heist movies. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the mature elements of Widows – the language, sex, and violence. What do they contribute to the film? Would it seem less authentic without them?

  • The film casts a negative light on its setting, Chicago, with its depiction of violence, corruption, and racism. Does this affect your attitude of the city? Do you think it's accurate?

  • Would you call this film "feminist"? Why or why not? Are any of the characters role models?

Movie details

For kids who love thrills and strong female characters

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