‘Queen & Slim’ doesn’t take long to throw you in the midst of the story. Set in present time, Slim (Daniel Kaluuya) and Queen (Jodie Turner-Smith) meet at a diner for the first time after meeting online. As they dissect their lives over dinner, they both decide to leave and return Queen home after a fairly average date. Whilst on their way home, they are pulled over by the police and consequently harassed and threatened with arrest. Knowing their rights, they resist, until the situation comes to a dramatic end with the police officer being shot dead by Slim. They both quickly come to the conclusion that they have to go on the run and evade capture by the police, full well knowing that if they turned themselves in, they wouldn’t get listened to.
The chemistry between Turner-Smith and Kaluuya is the beating heart of the film. As good as the direction and storyline of the film is executed, both main actors shine as Queen & Slim respectively. Special shout out to Jodie Turner-Smith who is absolutely fantastic in her role as Queen. One of the strongest performances we have seen in a while. Especially for someone who is breaking through on the big screen and commanding herself in a leading role, her transition from doing short films and TV shows to feature films seems effortless. We expect to see more performances like these in the future.
As we move onto direction, this is one of the more intimate film making we have seen so far this year. The majority of the film is set within a car, so with limited angles and shots to be able to use throughout is tough but first time feature film director Melina Matsoukas makes it look like a doddle. Her experience behind the camera is mainly around music videos by the likes of Leona Lewis, Beyoncé & Rihanna. Even though her experience is small on feature films, her directing experience is vast and has to be one of the more impressive feature film debut efforts in recent times.
‘Queen & Slim’ is a film that everyone can get on board with. With its essence of ‘Thelma & Louise’ style of structure, both Queen and Slim take a round trip across America whilst evading the law. Deciding to alter their look and bumping into characters on their journey, the film highlights the oppression that African Americans face in modern America. Their historic relationship with law enforcement is still one that is one of heightened tensions, especially with white police officers who are trigger happy and quite often, don’t face the consequences of their actions. Tense at the best of times but also emotional as both main characters arcs develop hugely from beginning to end. It’s a film that represents a journey and how people can change under immense pressure and stress. It’s one we really enjoyed, even though it’s slightly over stays its welcome towards the end.