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The importance of the family dinner scene in ‘Black Widow’

‘Black Widow’ has a family dinner scene worth noting

Black Widow in “Black Widow.”
Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) in “Black Widow.”
Marvel Studios

Warning: This article contains major spoilers for “Black Widow.”

At its heart, “Black Widow” is a family film. There is a decent amount of violence and some more mature subjects explored. But pockets of the film focus on bringing the family back together. It’s about the journey of Black Widow to make peace with her family, which has been a sore subject for her throughout most of her life.

None of the scenes of the film exemplify this more than the family dinner scene.

The family dinner scene happens toward the third act of the film. Natasha (Scarlett Johansson), Alexi (David Harbour) and Yelena (Florence Pugh) arrive at the home of Melina (Rachel Weisz), who decides to cook her family dinner as they figure out what to do next. The scene is the first time all these characters have gathered together again since the ‘90s, and it mirrors a scene from earlier in the film where they all eat dinner together before their lives change forever.

It’s a scene that matters a lot for the movie, as we see the climax of some character arcs and the resolution of other moments. But it’s also a beautiful return to family dinner conversations and a sign that something as simple as family dinner can have a lasting impact on what happens in our lives.

Making of the ‘Black Widow’ family dinner scene

“Black Widow” screenwriter Eric Pearson told The Washington Post that the family scene was one moment he “had the most panic about.”

“That was our biggest scene — a megillah,” he said.

In fact, the scene had nine pages in the script. “Every exchange, every emotional beat had to deepen the film while explaining the personal stakes for each of these psychologically warped characters,” according to The Washington Post.

Director Cate Shortland said the scene required two days of rehearsal so they could nail it just right. Pearson told The Washington Post that the family dinner moment had to be just right, becoming “a collision of a lot of character conflicts and relationship conflicts — and a lot of escalation of character conflicts.”

Why the ‘Black Widow’ family dinner scene matters

In the film, the family dinner scene is a classic moment where all the character arcs come together. We learn what Black Widow wants to do when it comes to freeing women from the Red Room — where they are brainwashed into being mindless assassins — and we learn about how Alexi, who once went by the moniker Red Guardian, wants to still be the major hero he was once. We discover that Yelena has always believed in her family since she was a kid, even though her parents, Alexi and Melina, were merely spies who adopted her.

This scene is a sign of the power of what family dinners can do. Like the characters of “Black Widow,” our family dinners are often moments when people from all walks of life come together for a single meal. It’s a moment where we all convene together to bring our own beliefs, thoughts and ideas into one place.

Family dinners aren’t always a good time. We’ve all had a Thanksgiving Day dinner where your uncle can’t stop ranting about his favorite political candidate. Or we’ve experienced dinners where children continue to interrupt adults as they try to put their own points across. Every family dinner is different — none of them are the same.

But there are often learnings that came out of these family dinners. They are moments that teach us who we really are. Sometimes they bore us into a near sleep, which makes us remember what we do and don’t like about our family conversations. Other times we learn a new perspective about the other political party or a news event you had never heard about.

You can listen at a family dinner. You can confess your greatest regrets at a family dinner. You can reveal your biggest surprise to date at the family dinner.

We’re not all superheroes. We are not Red Guardian or Black Widow. Our family dinner table conversations are not moments where we unveil our plans to take down a secret organization of spies and agents. It’s a lot more simple than that. We learn how to interact with our family. We spend time with the people we love and truly get to know them. And we learn so much about ourselves and what we want to do next in life.

The producers of “Black Widow” put a heavy amount of focus on the family dinner scene, knowing that it had to be the right balance of concluding emotional arcs and moving the plot along. And that’s for good reason. Family dinners are where our worlds grow. They’re one of the most important things we do. And it’s a good move for “Black Widow” to remind us of that.