Widows: can Steve McQueen transfer one of the UK’s best-ever crime dramas successfully to film?

I can’t help myself. I’ve started watching it again.

I’m currently on my twenty-somethingth viewing of Lynda La Plante’s Widows – a six-part TV drama I’ve been obsessed with for as long as I can remember. I’m so familiar with it, I now have to ration myself so I don’t spoil it – although I can’t imagine familiarity ever breeding content with this series. I love pretty much everything about it.

The biggest strength of the drama is an incredibly clever, original conceit: The widows of a gang of suddenly-deceased career criminals decide to do their husbands’ planned ‘last job’ themselves. Of course, it doesn’t go to plan.

‘Suppose they were to carry out the robbery themselves?’

The characters are combative and antagonistic – forced together by a shared goal to become incredibly rich overnight, using a plan devised by their dead husbands. As the end goal comes in sight, the relationships fracture even further, and there is constant danger from without and within.

In a nutshell, it does exactly what a good drama should: It keeps you watching, on the edge of your seat, never knowing what is going to happen next. There is no padding, no flagging, and everything feels completely plausible in the world of the story.

It’s a sign of the series’ enduring quality that I still remain tense and caught up in the drama of the final episode, even though I’ve seen it play out countless times.

I was very surprised when news broke that Steve McQueen is to direct a film version. To my mind, much of the appeal of the series will be lost in trying to squeeze it into a two-hour film.

More recent news that Gone Girl’s Gillian Flynn will co-write the screenplay with McQueen makes more sense – but the fact that McQueen’s film will ‘diverge dramatically’ from the original and be set in modern-day U.S. makes me question it further.

It’s going to be very hard to match the (IMHO) peerless original. Cue the haunting violin music…



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