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Queen & Slim – Movie Review

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Queen & Slim – Movie Review

Rating: B+ (Very Good)

Trailer/Thumbnail Courtesy eOne Films

Taking the runaway movie and turning it into a commentary on the racial tensions between African-Americans and the police, Queen & Slim is a strong feature debut for music video director Melina Matsoukas, while also showing the versatile writing skills of Lena Waithe. From the opening scene, the film is able to show the growing relationship between the two leads. Most importantly, we have an investment in them surviving the situation they have been thrust into. The movie explores the themes in a necessary and timely manner, presenting a needed point-of-view to the way black people are treated by the cops.

This is the kind of film where one feels on edge through most of it, as there’s an uncertainty over whether the police are closely approaching. An early scene where the whole ordeal begins is particularly hard to watch, as Matsoukas shows the horrible actions of a policeman who unfairly targets the leads. Jodie Turner-Smith and Daniel Kaluuya are able to create the needed sympathy for these young people dealing head-first with the way racism has turned an ugly head in their direction. Both deliver great performances that flesh out characters that are already well rounded on the page. The opening scene is especially important in establishing them and their personalities.

The film also acts as a travelogue for the United States, particularly the black communities. Matsoukas and director of photography Tat Radcliffe present the neighbourhoods in ways that allow them to feel real on the screen. Each person Queen and Slim meet leaves a memorable impression and serves an important role in their journey. Queen & Slim avoids feeling episodic, due to the natural way in which their relationship progresses and they find out new things about one another. Between the more tense scenes, Matsoukas and Waithe allow for moments to stop and let the characters talk about their lives.

The filmmakers definitely have a lot to say about the state of racism within the United States today, with emphasis on attitudes towards the law enforcement. One would need to have their head in the ground to not notice the number of unprovoked shootings of black people committed by police officers. Queen & Slim properly shows why this angers many people and Matsoukas and Waithe understandably show their support for the “Black Lives Matter” movement, even if it’s not directly named. The protests that erupt due to Queen and Slim’s actions are able to show why these movements exist and the need for change. Some may accuse this film of choosing to be an After School Special, but there are some issues that need to addressed headfirst and without subtlety.

The second half of Queen & Slim may not have the same spark as the beginning of the film, but Melina Matsoukas and Lena Waithe still keep the narrative engaging as our two leads go on the run. They present a snapshot of the United States and the tension that exists in many communities. Most importantly, the titular characters are able to be flawed, but likeable, as helped by Daniel Kaluuya and Jodie Turner-Smith’s performances. Waithe gives the best dialogue to these two and the actors have a real screen presence. Queen & Slim is definitely a message movie, but it’s an important message and presented with a strong vision.

Stefan Ellison
THE SCENE

Stefan Ellison