Telling a fictional but all too recognisable story, ‘Queen and Slim’ is a politically fuelled road-trip romance thriller. Self-referenced as the black Bonnie and Clyde, it’s a film rich in topical messages and emotional drama.
After their questionable Tinder date, Queen and Slim are driving home when complications with the law arise. After a police officer is accidentally killed, the two must go on the run across America, encountering various helpers along the way, all while the impending threat of arrest follows them. After their accident inspires a movement, they’ll learn what it means to be considered both heroes and criminals, as they delicately walk the line between right and wrong.
Daniel Kaluuya and Jodie Turner-Smith star as Slim and Queen respectively. The two are utterly fabulous together, with real chemistry and a genuine emotional connection. Both give brave and revealing performances, and because they anchor the entire film, it is their story that we follow. Thanks to their powerful performances, the drama is weighted heavily, and the audience is really brought along with their journey. The film also stars Bokeem Woodbine, Chloe Sevigny, Sturgill Simpson and Flea.
Though its political intentions are never too far away, the key part of this film is the romantic road trip element. The script is wonderfully written so the two slowly open up more to each other. As an extension of their Tinder date, the film is very believable in its depiction of the two slowly transitioning from total strangers, to co-criminals, to lovers. It’s also important to note that the film still deals with the fact that, accidental or not, the two did accidentally kill someone. That moment is not glorified, and some characters openly condemn the act. It’s an impressive stance for the film to take where the protagonists aren’t all good, or all bad; they’re just human.
The film’s narrative, while fairly standard, still delivers with a lot of impact. In her feature debut, director Melina Matsoukas demonstrates a keen understanding of storytelling. Her background in music video directing has clearly given her an important insight in visual storytelling, and how editing can be used to add impact to a scene. In a key sequence involving a riot, she creates a visceral contrast of images that were powerful to watch. The score and cinematography are beautiful and wouldn’t look out of place as a companion piece to last year’s ‘If Beale Street Could Talk’, and the final act of the film gave a brilliant final emotional punch that has resonated with me ever since.
‘Queen and Slim’ is a film that seems to have fallen slightly under the radar, with reports of the Oscars snubbing it for any awards. This talk is part of a wider discussion I won’t get into in this post, but suffice to say that the two leads certainly deliver award-worthy performances, and the film’s overall tone is an accomplished one of dread and resistance, but also of love and hope.