Over the weekend, I had the privilege of being able to watch Queen and slim. I walked into the cinema, not knowing what I was going to watch, and what I saw absolutely blew me away.
ROTTEN TOMATOES 82%
The following review does not contain any major spoilers. Still, it does hint at some of the events in the film, so if you would rather go into the movie completely blind, DO NOT READ ANY FURTHER. Just know that it’s an outstanding film and I would 100 per cent recommend it.
The film begins with two young African Americans on a first date. On their way back they are stopped by a policeman, who pulls a gun on Kalyuua’s character. To stop Jodie Turner-Smith’s character, a lawyer, from recording the incident on her phone, shoots her. The Jodie Turner-Smith’s Character then makes the decision for them both to go on the run to try and live their lives elsewhere.
There were many things I loved about this film, but the first thing that stood out for me was the characters themselves and the actors who played them. Jodie Turner-Smith and Daniel Kaluuya, who does a compelling southern accent for a London boy, give brilliant performances. Their acting was nuanced, and their character development was believable across the six days that the events of the film were taking place. Jodie’s character is a lawyer which makes what the gravity of what they are doing all the more significant hammers home the fact that in today’s America, the question that if she believes that running is the best course of action, even though there is s tape recording the incident as self-defence, there isn’t a jury alive today that would acquit these Characters of murder, because of their skin colours.
Another addition to the visual experience of this film was how contemporary it was. The events of the film were very familiar to viewers. We’ve all been on social media, seen the news over the last few years. We have become familiar with the pattern of violence that follows a ‘routine’ traffic stop in American society. Everyone knew what the outcome would be if the characters were ever caught, which kept the audience on the edges of their seats and made the thriller genre of this film a well-deserved one. Queen and Slim is precisely the right type of thriller that doesn’t require the supernatural or a serial killer to keep you on your toes. The pace of the film, the relationships between the characters and the people they meet, all work to build up that tension naturally. And with every new hiding place, the pressure increases, partly because you keep wondering if they will make it, but also knowing that they can’t.
One of my favourite scenes in the film was the dance scene in the Atlanta juke bar. Everyone in that scene is doing their own dance but moving in time and as one with the beat. It’s a small detail, but it makes for a very satisfying visual experience and visually presents us with the real underlying theme of black solidarity which begins here and continues to run throughout the whole film. Despite not knowing Daniel’s character well, Jodie’s character stuck with him to for them to both be free, when she could have easily left him to turn himself in and face the death penalty. The whole premises of the film hinges on them being able to hop from hiding place to hiding place, because of the support of their fellow African Americans and kind strangers. Even those who don’t agree with the protagonists have done, do not turn them in because they do not turn in their own. And the fact that we don’t really learn their names until the end shows that these two characters, through their actions, are no longer just two individuals but could come to represent any black American person; and loyalty to them means solidarity within the black community as a whole and black love and unity will always lead to success.
And it that idea; that if you stay true to your people, and black solidarity prevails, that love and freedom can sprout. It’s subtle, but it’s an idea that is prevalent and very relevant to the era we now live in, with different faction of the black community, claiming superiority over others and, at times ignoring the struggles of their brothers, overseas, or across state lines, because their issues do not apply to them.
But in the end, as we see, when black people run after the money that what white-run corporations can give them, as opposed to sticking by their own, everything falls apart.
The film concludes with Queen and Slim in each other’s arms which, symbolically, it’s a very fitting ending. For a movie, which did not get the broader media discussion of films such as David Copperfield, or The Gentlemen, Queen and Slim, still came through with a well-executed narrative, a punchy plot and an engaging message that should stay with audiences well beyond the cinema doors.