Racially poignant and provocative, Queen and Slim is a gut-punch of a film that may be too stylistic for its own good.
After an awkward first date, “Slim”, played by Daniel Kaluuya, ends up in a confrontation with a prejudiced police officer where the officer is ultimately shot and killed. Now on the run, “Queen”, played by Jodie Turner-Smith, and Slim must evade the law for as long as possible whilst finding their own destiny.
What director Melina Matsoukas and writer Lena Waithe have done is apply the “Bonnie and Clyde” story to the racial divide between police and the black community – an issue as prevalent today as it ever was. And Queen and Slim never falls short of bold, between its striking and colorful cinematography and its challenging support characters, cancelling out any familiarity we may have with the film’s story and making for an almost wholly original experience; the final minutes of the film? Devastating. The soundtrack vibes, and Daniel Kaluuya and Jodie Turner-Smith both give understated performances filled with the anger and passion the film thrives off of.
I hesitate to call Queen and Slim a style over substance film, because the issue isn’t a lack of substance, but that the substance isn’t communicated as effectively as hoped. We watch as a pair of African Americans fall victim to the underlying corruption in law enforcement, an all too familiar sight, but the film’s attempt to hold oppressors responsible is questionable in the way it’s done, and that coupled with a rather hopeless resolution, fails to inspire the rallying cry reminiscent of BLM the film aims for; Queen and Slim may have been more admirable heroes had they not chosen to turn and run, but to take the fight against discrimination beyond a single act of self-defense. Queen is a lawyer, and she appears confident in her ability, so why is her first idea to run? Either way the odds are not in your favor, and as someone who possesses a knowledgeable legal mind (Queen, not me), I find it hard to believe she thought the best option in the moment was to run. And for a film that is supposedly on the run, there doesn’t appear to be much urgency; there’s maybe one too many pit-stops or arbitrarily sophisticated discussions that I’m not too sure Queen and Slim would get as far as they did in real life.
I’m not the greatest perspective to hear from regarding this film, and I would recommend, if you’re interested in the film, to seek out an African American reviewer’s voice; I can almost guarantee they’re more suited to dissect this film than I am. But my final thoughts are this: I really wanted to like Queen and Slim, the trailers flashed potential of a film that challenged the medium and made for an exciting ride, and I do like the film, I’m just mixed. It’s a near scathing social commentary caught in the crossfire with a fiery romance that celebrates black culture and beauty and is only so successful on either of those fronts. 7.5/10