Out of all the films that were released this year, the one feature that has yet to leave my mind is the beautifully melanated, Gina Prince-Bythewood-directed, Viola Davis-led film, The Woman King.
And you want to know why? It’s because in addition to the film being helmed by phenomenally talented Black women both in front of and behind the camera, the already multi-award nominated film is also a masterclass in sublime artistry.
For those unaware, The Woman King centers around the Agojie, the all-female unit of warriors who protected the African Kingdom of Dahomey in the 1800s with skills and a fierceness unlike anything the world has ever seen. Inspired by true events, the film follows the emotionally epic journey of General Nanisca (played by Davis) as she trains the next generation of recruits and readies them for battle against an enemy determined to destroy their way of life.
From the time I walked out of the theater opening weekend up until this article’s publishing, not a day has gone by that I don’t think about the experience I felt while watching this film. I think that’s due in large part to the fact that every single actor in this film fully encompassed their roles to the point where it was almost hard to remember this was a fictional tale.
If I wasn’t too busy being drawn in by the fierceness of Davis’ General Nanisca, it’s because I was too busy focusing on the award-worthy work from the other warrior women, namely Thuso Mbedu, Lashana Lynch, Sheila Atim and Adrienne Warren. The passion, heart, and conviction these ladies put into their respective characters is something I’m going to continually admire for a long time. (I’d also be remiss if I didn’t highlight the excellent work John Boyega did as King Ghezo. The way he made his presence felt proved yet again why he’s the star that he is.)
As if amazing character portrayals weren’t enough, the actual storyline, moments of sisterly love and bonding, and the major plot twists present in the film are all factors that further serve as proof of a film worthy of applause and standing ovations.
And while some detractors tried their darndest to put out the flames of this on-fire film, it wasn’t enough to snuff out the praise and award accolades it’s now receiving. I’m not being hyperbolic when I say this: The Woman King was hands down the most enjoyable and the best film I watched all year. Here’s hoping that it gets its just dues as award season continues to roll out.
But even if it doesn’t, I hope Bythewood, Davis, Mbedu, Lynch, Atim, Warren, and Boyega know just how valuable of a gem they each are and how influential and meaningful this film is. Your work was not in vain, thank you for creating art of this magnitude.