They say that tragedy brings people closer together. That saying takes on an unexpected resonance in Steve McQueen’s Widows, which follows four women — played by Viola Davis, Michelle Rodriguez, Cynthia Erivo, and Elizabeth Debicki — as they unite after their husbands’ deaths to complete a heist.

All four actresses stopped by People and EW’s TIFF studio on Saturday to talk about the film’s brutal but empowering story.

“I love the way they chose to take care of themselves,” Davis said. “That they didn’t fall down into the grave and just die, that they made a choice that they were going to rise like a phoenix from the ashes. And maybe not in a way that’s nice and pretty. Maybe in a way that’s just as brutal as the men, but you know what? You have to do what is at your hand to do.”

McQueen directs from a screenplay by Gillian Flynn (Gone Girl, Sharp Objects), and Rodriguez said she was especially drawn to the film’s explorations of power, money, and gender.

“I love the fact that McQueen and Gillian decided to take an approach to showing what the intention of feminine soft power really, truly comes down to,” Rodriguez said. “And if you look at what drives women in lower-income communities, it’s the survival of the species, really.”

“I think women, we have a lot in us,” Davis added. “A lot in us that probably would considered testosterone but is actually progesterone. That female power is one that is oftentimes not seen on screen in this way.”

Widows is in theaters Nov. 16 and also stars Daniel Kaluuya, Brian Tyree Henry, Liam Neeson, and Jon Bernthal. Watch the interview above.

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