Widows Parent Guide
Between the toxic family dynamics, tragic losses, and high-stakes heists, this is the antithesis of a “feel good film”.
Parent Movie Review
Harry Rawlings (Liam Neeson) is a dangerous career criminal in Chicago who pulls off high-value jobs with a loyal crew. However, when a job goes wrong, the gang is killed and their loot incinerated when their escape van explodes in a police shootout. Harry’s widow, Veronica (Viola Davis), soon finds herself in an untenable situation: her husband has left her with few liquid assets, and the people he stole from want their money. To get it back, Veronica decides to do a job her husband had planned before his death and recorded in his notebook. She seeks out Linda Perelli (Michelle Rodriguez) and Alice Gunner (Elizabeth Debicki), the widows of her husband’s gang members, and embarks on a dangerous journey of murder, political corruption, torture, blackmail, and armed robbery. With their backs up against the wall, will these wily women be able to pay off their husband’s debts? And what will the real cost be?
Now, as that synopsis and the category grades above should attest, this film is solidly in the “R” rating. Moderately explicit sex, murder, and torture are the scenes du jour here, and the camera does not shy away from some of the grisly details. Parents will be especially alarmed by the disturbing sexual content, particularly a scene in which a mother encourages her daughter to engage in prostitution. We then see her having sex with a client: although the set is dimly lit, it is clear that both parties are nude. Photos of a man having sex with his niece, for which he is being blackmailed, are shown on the screen. In addition, profanity is also a near-constant, with over 100 uses of all kinds of profanity, including 56 sexual expletives.
Aside from these significant content issues, Widows is thoughtful and well shot. Viola Davis is captivating in her portrayal of an emotionally exhausted woman who has lost her husband and son and chooses to embark on a life of crime. She brings an icy rigidity to many of the scenes which only deepens their impact. In the few scenes where she expresses more positive emotions, or even smiles, the contrast is breathtaking. None of the whimsy which afflicts so many other heist movies is to be found here- characters are in dire straits and serious danger, and at no point does that feel like an empty threat. The supporting cast is wonderful, with Robert Duvall managing to steal every scene he’s in, and Michelle Rodriguez and Elizabeth Debicki bringing a broader palette of emotions to the screen.
This film also benefits from gorgeous cinematography, with director Steve McQueen and his cinematographer, Sean Bobbit, ensuring that each shot is gripping without drawing attention to fancy camera moves or effects. If you remember the clever work in McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave, also overseen by Bobbit, you should have a good idea of the kind of smart shooting we see in Widows.
Between the toxic family dynamics, tragic losses, and high-stakes heists, this movie might just be the antithesis of a “feel good film”. Don’t expect the kind of high-spirited good humor found in Oceans 8 here. Widows is dark and compelling, gritty and dangerous from start to finish. It drags you through a series of awful crimes and surprising twists, leaving you on the edge of your seat until the credits roll.Directed by Steve McQueen. Starring Viola Davis, Michelle Rodriguez, and Liam Neeson. Running time: 129 minutes. Theatrical release November 16, 2018. Updated November 17, 2018
Rating & Content Info
Why is Widows rated R? Widows is rated R by the MPAA for violence, language throughout, and some sexual content/nudity
Violence: Frequent gun violence, including close ups of gunshot wounds. A disabled man is stabbed repeatedly, but non-fatally. A young man is unnecessarily shot by police.
Sexual Content: Photos of a man having sex with his niece are used as blackmail. A character’s mother encourages her to engage in escort prostitution, which she does. There is a scene depicting her having sex with a man for money, which is moderately graphic and features partial (dimly lit and unclear) nudity. A scene depicts nude breasts and buttocks. At a criminal hideout there are pin-up posters in the background of many shots, though they are usually out of focus. There is frequent catcalling at female characters from young men standing on the streets.
Profanity: One hundred uses of profanity, of which 56 are sexual expletives and 34 are scatological terms. Mild obscenities, racial slurs, and terms of deity round out the curses in the film.
Alcohol / Drug Use: No drugs are shown in the film. Characters are shown drinking socially but are never shown intoxicated.
Page last updated November 17, 2018
Widows Parents' GuideWe do not recommend this for family viewing in any circumstance.
Related home video titles:
Ocean’s 8 is a far more appropriate choice for a female-driven heist movie.
Another fun, but family-friendly female buddy picture is the Ghostbusters sequel.
The Sting, starring Robert Redford and Paul Newman, is a classic gangster revenge film and is suitable for teens. Robert Redford also stars in a light-hearted, teen friendly heist film, The Old Man & the Gun.