Overlooked and not-frequently talked about enough this awards season, Queen & Slim is an endlessly beautiful thriller full of intimacy and impactful punch. It is a Bonnie-and-Clyde-style adventure written by Lena Waithe and James Frey while directed by Melina Matsoukas. Rightfully nominated for best first-time director at the DGA’s, Melina’s directorial presence is a key feature to why Queen & Slim is fantastic as it is.
At the core of the film is the beautifully-rocky relationship of our Bonnie and Clyde-type characters. However, they aren’t like Bonnie and Clyde as they aren’t robbers, they are victims of an unjust system. Starring Daniel Kaluuya and Jodie Turner-Smith, the pair are effortlessly charming and watchful. Watching them paired to Tat Radcliffe’s dream-like cinematography is an experience of overwhelming passion and connection. There is a dream-like touch to the enchantment of this tale’s execution, it is near-masterfully-made. Color me entirely impressed and shocked by the brilliance of Melina Matsoukas.
Out on a first date at a Cleveland diner, we first meet Queen (Turner-Smith) and Slim (Kaluuya). Queen is a defence lawyer, she once defended her mother’s killer. Slim is a normal citizen, interested in moving this date into another. Having finished their dinner, Slim drives Queen back to her place only to be pulled over by a white trigger-happy police officer. What happens next is of life-threatening consequences to the pair of new-lovers. Now “accidental activists” due to leaked dashcam footage- they find supporters in the strangest places, but also foes. They set off on the run, attempting to make it out of the USA to Cuba.
Leaving Queen & Slim I felt shocked and in absolute awe. It will leave you speechless, there is something so tragically beautiful about the film. Heart-wrenching and also passionately romantic. Matsoukas is able to capture such misfortune, hardship, and earnest sentiment, whilst also having one of the most alluring and elegant love stories of recent. It is a demonstration of control and vivid vision.
The story is a powerfully charged tale rooted in racial injustice. Racial profiling and discrimination have always and still are, a huge part of what defines the American policing system. What occurs in the film is all too real, it’s shocking, and even though its fiction it feels real. Queen & Slim tackles these injustices with a powerfully charged approach. The characters of Queen and Slim are symbols, symbols who start a movement against the systemic racism that remains a plague to African-Americans primarily by the hand of law enforcement. With this, there are many powerful scenes where people stand up and are inspired by these modern day heroes. Undoubtedly, the film will touch your heart and soul.
Whilst the center of the film is the relationship of the pair, I believe that its style is of fundamental importance. Style that feeds into the crux of the film. Shot and framed with precision and rigor, it is endlessly impossible to not notice the exquisite feel of Matsoukas’ enticing presence. Queen & Slim is most definitely under-seen, but I believe in the coming years it has the potential to leave as big of a stamp on film history as it did on me. Undoubtedly, it is a film to not be missed.
Queen & Slim is out in UK Cinemas NOW
Follow writer Ben Rolph on Twitter: @THEDCTVSHOW