Queen & Slim 2019 ****

Landing something between Thelma & Louise and Badlands, Queen and Slim is an American road odyssey featuring two characters who have no desire to run away; both Queen (Jodie Turner-Smith) and Slim (Daniel Kaluuya) are thinking of other things when they go on a tentative Tinder date in an Ohio restaurant. The date itself is inconclusive, and yet Queen and Slim’s paths are now firmly and forever interlocked by fate, or at least the attentions of an overzealous lawman.

Recent features like The Hate U Give have attempted to bring BlackLivesMatter issues to the fore with a heavy hand; Queen & Slim, written by Lena Waithe, and directed by Melina Matsoukas, makes a clear statement about how flashpoints of violence emerge from distrust, then steps nimbly aside to focus on the human cost as Queen and Slim try to register their new predicament. He has a family, but she is a lawyer, and it says something about the growing chasm between races that her immediate plan is to go on the run. Justice, in court, in the media, of any kind is the preserve of a monied elite and if you’re black, it’s hard to trust that the authorities will deal with you fairly, so Queen surmises. Changing cars, haircuts and clothes, Queen and Slim set off in the hope of finding new lives and identities far from their Ohio home.

Their journey has echoes of the Underground Railroad, and Queen and Slim’s story gains power from the ease with which the two characters drop into a criminal world. The resolution is less powerful than the set-up, but Queen & Slim is bolstered by some great character work by Turner-Smith and Kaluuya in particular, building on his electrifying turns in Get Out and Widows.

As a voting Academy member, I’ve yet to meet another voting member who has seen Queen and Slim, despite plenty of public and critical raves. Before suggesting overt racism, it’s worth pointing out that watching 140 films in a solitary month is a impossible task in terms of viewing every film. But Queen & Slim’s failure to gain mainstream recognition confirms the film’s underdog status; like Just Mercy and Waves, it’s a nominee from a year in which carelessly built and outdated voting platforms accidentally squeezed out all but the front-runners.


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  1. I saw this film in theaters and thought it was very well done. I agree with your allusion to “The Hate You Give” and others. I also compared it to “Bonnie and Clyde.”

    While the story starts out with an altercation with a ‘bad’ cop, and ends similarly, I also want to call out a heart-breaking scene with a ‘good’ cop.

    While the film is clearly a fiction, it dramatizes the distrust of police officials for black Americans, and black Americans’ distrust of both police and “the system” that is an ongoing problem in the US.

    While “Queen and Slim” is entertaining, “Just Mercy” is a true story that is even more heart-wrenching. I’m gratified that black voices (and faces) are getting more attention at the box office, if not at the Academy.

    Scott Allison and I recently reviewed “Just Mercy” at Reel Heroes.

    Thanks for this review and Continued Success!

    • Just had a quick look at Reel Heroes and will be back for more! Streaming should help democratise films, but right now, there’s one or two potential slots for minority film-makers at mainstream awards, and the result is that good films miss out. It’s the job of critics to point this out, and looks like you do a good job yourself!

  2. Thanks for the comment! The age of streaming should make films easier to find and locate, but cinema itself is still the best way to see a film. As a critic, I’m delighted if someone reads about a new film they want to see, particularly if the same film has been under-represented! Cheers!

  3. It looks well worth a watch. What a shame that movies like this don’t get a wide theatrical release, especially outside of the US/UK. I’d love to see this if I ever get the chance to!

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