A few months ago, my Hot Young Widows Club Facebook group lit up with the news that there was going to be a new movie coming out called “Widows.” Yes, we knew it was a blockbuster movie, and wasn’t likely to reflect much of our everyday experiences of losing a spouse. But still – a movie about widows! I was so excited that I put the date of the premier on my calendar.
Getting out to see a movie as the parent of three little kids is complicated, but I knew I could work out childcare with my dad. The larger issue was that I wanted to see this movie with someone who would understand if I cried at inappropriate times. And so I went with a friend of mine who is also a widower.
“Did you watch the trailer?” he asked me when we met up that evening.
“Um, no,” I said.
“So you have no idea what this movie is about?” He looked at me with a sideways smile.
“Well….not really,” I admitted. I’d chosen this movie for us with no knowledge about it beyond the fact that it was a movie with a title I liked. “But it’s a movie about widows,” I said, “and we are seeing it together. It’s very meta.”
He laughed at that. “Well,” he said, “I guess we’ll see what it’s like.”
We went to the late show and the theater was full with people out to have a good time. Of course, I had no idea what the lives of the other theater-goers were like. But in my head I thought, “none of these other people are like us. They don’t know what young widowhood is like.”
My experience of this movie – whatever it was going to be – would be different than theirs. Turns out, I was right.
In the opening scene, Harry (Liam Neeson) and Veronica (Viola Davis) are making out in their bed. It’s beautifully passionate and simple – and of course hit me right in the heart. I felt my breath catch just a bit. Luckily for me, I guess, the movie quickly turned to the violent deaths of Harry and a number of other men. I have to say I was pretty surprised when there was so much bloodshed in the first ten minutes. Young widowhood can be quite dramatic, I suppose.
My widower friend leaned over at this point and said, “the last movie I saw was Incredibles 2.” We both laughed. Life as a parent of young kids, especially if you’re the only parent, doesn’t usually involve R-rated movies. In fact, it was the first time either of us had been out to see a movie with another adult since the death of our spouses.
In any case, after the initial death scenes, the movie began to focus on the widows left behind. The main character, Veronica, stands in the bathroom and tries to pull herself together before heading out to her husband’s funeral. She looks in the mirror and lets out a guttural cry of anguish.
That was one of the moments when I forgot that I was watching a movie. I couldn’t really look at my widower friend, but when we talked about it later, we both agreed – that scene was one that hit just a little too close to home.
Around us, people laughed a little bit as Veronica cried. It was an uncomfortable scene depicting the deepest of human emotions, and I think people didn’t know how to react. Raw grief is hard to take.
I was captivated from that point on. There were so many themes in the movie that were important and moving – but I won’t go spoiling the plot here. Suffice to say that it was a movie that commented on race, class, politics and injustice. But of course my focus as I watched the movie was with the experiences of the widows.
In the movie, Veronica flashes back repeatedly to times when her husband was alive. He’s there, drinking from a flask or taking a shower and then the scene changes to Veronica waking up in her bed – and he’s gone. At one point, she reaches over to his pillow, grasping it.
How many times have I done that in the past year? How many times have I woken up, confused, and then it has hit me that Shawn is actually gone? How many times have I grasped his pillow and thought, “how can I go on?”
My widower friend said he felt similarly. How many dreams have we both had where our spouses were alive, and then we’ve woken up to find that they are gone? How do you get up and continue on with your day when it starts like that?
I don’t know. I mean, the characters in the movie had to pull off a crazy heist set up by their late husbands, so I guess that’s how they continued on. But there was one line that I thought really connected to our real-life experiences. As they set up for the heist, one of the widows says to her friends, “If this whole thing goes wrong, I want my kids to know that I didn’t just sit there and take it. I did something.”
I guess that’s what I hope my kids know as well. That I didn’t just become a victim to my circumstances.
Maybe that’s why I liked the movie so much. It showed pain – real, raw, terrible pain – but it also showed characters who didn’t just roll over and succumb to their bad luck. They were complex – weeping and grief-stricken throughout the movie – but they were also strong, and eventually, quite empowered.
They took their shitty luck and made something of it.
They were widows, but they were not victims.
Image Credit: Becky Hale Photography.