Scarlett Johansson and Florence Pugh

There’s no denying that the heroes of the Marvel Cinematic Universe have experienced real emotional pain. Captain America (Chris Evans) struggled as a man out of time who eventually learned that his best friend had been programmed to assassinate him. Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) is plagued by his angry alter ego, The Hulk. Even villains like Loki (Tom Hiddleston) have tragic backstories -- as adopted children who are never worthy in the eyes of a father (or, at least, that’s how Loki perceives his reality).

Few can match the hardships endured by Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson), the MCU’s Black Widow, who will finally carry her own picture when Marvel Studios releases Black Widow on July 9. The Red Room espionage training program that Natasha was placed into is an elite Soviet department that turns young women into lethal assassins. But it also brainwashes them and reprograms them into blank slates, and it often happens against their will. Black Widow will have to touch on this aspect of Romanoff’s existence, and when CinemaBlend went to the UK to visit the set of the movie, co-star Florence Pugh opened up about how the topic of abuse directs the cast’s approach to the material. Pugh said:

I think this - good question - I think that’s one of the heartbreaks about this film, is that it is essentially about women that have been abused. Whether it’s about a system, or whether it’s about physical abuse. They’ve all been, in some way, trapped. And I think this film is the realization, or the life, that was taken from them. And that’s how Natasha and Yelena start repairing, I suppose. So, I don’t think she’s too happy about that. Then again, it’s the only thing she’s known, so I don’t know.

It’s encouraging to hear that Black Widow director Cate Shortland and her cast aren’t shying away from the complications that come with digging below the surface of Natasha Romanoff’s story. From the looks of an exclusive clip that made the rounds recently, several trained (or reprogrammed) Widows will be part of this story, working against Natasha, and it’s hard to portray them without commenting on the abuse they endure.

Black Widow cast

Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) found solace in her adopted family, The Avengers. But in Black Widow, we’ll also meet the Russian family that Natasha left behind so many years ago, including her kid sister Yelena (Florence Pugh), her mother (Rachel Weisz) and father (David Harbour). Opening up about the dynamic that Yelena will have with Natasha, Pugh told CinemaBlend:

What’s my relationship with Nat? Confusing. Bratty. Emotional. A sisterly relationship. Exactly what you’d expect a younger sister to be. Yelena is deeply annoying and pretty much takes the mick out of everything Natasha does, but fundamentally they have a very unique and strong relationship that drives them through the film.

As for that film, it will be available in theaters and on Disney+ via Premier Access starting on July 9. Tickets for Black Widow currently are on sale, so make sure you grab them. And look for our reaction to the film later this week, only on CinemaBlend.

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