I’m going to make a statement that sounds hyperbolic: Queen and Slim will be remembered as one of the best films of the decade.
I know it sounds like hype, I assure you its not. Despite what you may have heard, it’s not a black Bonnie and Clyde film. The story of Bonnie and Clyde film is inherently about death, Queen and Slim reduced to a word is about life. It is that focus on life and all of the associated joys and pains that allows this film to succeed because of its complexity, resulting in a film that defies simple categorization.
The premise of the film is simple: a young African-American couple played by Jodie Turner-Smith (Queen) and Daniel Kaluuya (Slim) out on a first date – which, incidentally, isn’t going well – are pulled over by a police officer. Through a series of events over the course of the stop the protagonists find themselves killing the officer in self-defense and are forced to flee. From there Queen and Slim could devolve into a simple chase film, but the quality of the screenplay by Lena Waithe, the talent of Turner-Smith and Kaluuya, and the direction of Melina Matsoukas, gives us an exploration of humanity and black experience in America.
Queen and Slim transcends the simplicity of its premise because of the multiple levels the film operates on with just living being the focus of the film. On one level it’s a story about love, not just in a romantic sense, but a love that heals. On another it’s an exploration of the the black community and how non-homogeneous it is despite the assumption of mainstream American society, shown in who chooses to aid the protagonists, and it’s not always who you’d expect. Add in its commentary on the incredibly problematic relationship between the black community and police and you go from a good film, like the recently released Black & Blue, to a film that exceeds all expectations.
One of the most noticeable aspects of the film is the sense of immediacy that it creates from the opening moments. Many creative teams would have opted for the audience to meet each of the protagonists separately leading up to the events of the their first date. Instead the we meet Queen and Slim in the middle of their date and with the most minimal understanding about each character. This creates the affect that the audience is learning about the characters as they themselves are learning about each other. With the police stop occurring immediately after the date, the film wastes no time in forcing them to confront this new reality.
Jodie Turner-Smith’s performance as Queen can be accurately described as transcendent. While Kaluuya’s Slim is the quintessential nice guy, thrust into an impossibly difficult situation, Queen is the most emotionally complex character in the film. As our protagonists are fleeing from the authorities, Turner-Smith gives us a character that evolves and is willing to confront the trauma she has experienced and live, not just survive. Turner-Smith’s Queen is the straw that stirs the drink and the film benefits immensely from her performance. I don’t get an Oscar vote, but if I did she would be my Best Actress nominee for certain.
Ultimately Queen and Slim reminds me of one of my favorite albums Illmatic. It’s not just one thing that make Illmatic classic it’s the sum of all its parts. Nas’s lyrics are prophetic, the production of Q-Tip, Pete Rock, and DJ Premier are perfect compliments, and the album cover of Nasir Jones as a child completes the project. Queen and Slim is a film based off an exceptional script, with a talented director, and a equally skilled cast of actors coming together to create something unique. A friend once told me that life was learning how to dance in the raindrops, living and finding joy when life is at its most difficult. Queen and Slim perfectly communicates that idea.
– Five Stars, a PCU must see film.
A special thank you to Allied Global Marketing for providing us with the opportunity to attend the press screening.