“Queen & Slim” stars Daniel Kaluuya, Jodie Turner-Smith, Bokeem Woodbine, and Chloë Sevigny. Released on November 27, 2019, the film is about a couple who go on the run after one of them shoots a police officer in self-defense.
The film features the directorial debut of Melina Matsoukas, who is known for directing music videos as well as several episodes of “Master of None” and “Insecure”. It’s always hard for us to not talk about specific topics that are quite controversial, especially the one that involves “police” and “racism”. This topic was explored in Deon Taylor’s action thriller, “Black and Blue”, last month, and now we are exploring it again in the latest drama that is inspired by the “Bonnie & Clyde” trope. Yes, the “Bonnie & Clyde”. The couple who committed a series of devious crimes together a long time ago. In this film, instead of a couple robbing stores and killing innocent people, they’re basically just hiding from the law. Based on the marketing alone, it definitely has the makings of being a compelling and timely drama that combines the thrills and the social commentary, but does that mean it’s worth watching during Thanksgiving weekend?
The film tells the tale of two African-Americans, a man named Slim (Kaluuya) and a woman named Queen (Turner-Smith). Their first date together turns disastrous when they are pulled over by a white police officer for a minor traffic violation. Of course, the situation escalates into a violent scuffle, concluding with Slim killing the officer in self-defense. Now classified as cop killers, Queen and Slim are forced to go on the run and evade the law. Their story soon becomes an inspiration for the African-American community. Yep, this is a modern “Bonnie & Clyde” love story, all right. While the film offers the usual romance element that we come to expect, it also digs deep into one of the most controversial topics of this decade, which is something that I personally find interesting in certain films like last year’s “Green Book”. For a film like this, it needed to get a few things right. It needed to have interesting characters, a story that doesn’t glamorize the topic (as in forcing the themes down our throats and making it as cheesy as a Lifetime movie), and a style that matches its storytelling in terms of emotional depth. “Queen & Slim” easily checked off those marks. It’s far from being one of my favorite films of the year due to some small issues, but I can say that it’s one of the most gorgeous-looking and intense dramas I’ve seen all year. As I mentioned before, the story is supposed to be a modern take on the tale of Bonnie and Clyde, and after watching it for myself, I can definitely see why. If you’re familiar with Bonnie and Clyde, you might get the idea on how it’s going to turn out at the end. However, that doesn’t make the story any less engaging. You got the main characters whose lives have been drastically changed because of this unescapable situation and the on-the-run plot that earned the urgency in its dramatic elements without showcasing large amounts of violence. What I liked about these main characters was the believable connection between the two. They’re the type of people who have no choice but to trust one another despite them only meeting on their first date. As the film progresses, so does their relationship with each other, and I actually cared about this progress. I’m serious, this is another film that made me appreciate the characters’ romance even though I’m not a huge fan of the genre, so “Queen & Slim” gets bonus points for that. The film also didn’t shy away from its frustrating themes, which I thought were handled really well in terms of Lena Waithe’s screenplay. In my eyes, it’s the film’s way of saying “fix this mess now before it’s too late”. Daniel Kaluuya delivered another great performance as Slim, and Jodie Turner-Smith was irresistibly riveting as Queen. I haven’t seen her in her other films before “Queen & Slim”, so this was my first encounter with the British actress, and I have to say, she definitely showed me that she’s more than just a pretty face. The cinematography and Melina Matsoukas’s direction also got my seals of approval for providing a stunning visual style that blended well with its story. The wide shots, the driving sequences, the emotional scenes, pretty much everything was just beautiful to look at. There were only a couple of minor flaws that I thought could’ve been improved, such as the film’s runtime, which is around two hours and 10 minutes. I wasn’t entirely bored of it because of its respectable pacing, but I did feel that they should trim down a couple of scenes so that it’s at least ten minutes shorter. There were also a couple of scenes that almost made me tear up, but I appreciate its effort regardless.
Overall, “Queen & Slim” is an intense and stylistic love story that impressively combines romance with social commentary. Ranging from the performances to its well-developed story, this is another voice that deserves to be heard when it comes to its subject matter. Not only that, but it is also a near-perfect feature-length debut from music video director Melina Matsoukas, and I hope that her next project will be just as good as this. I would recommend this one to those who enjoyed these types of movies, except the kids. This is not something you want as a back-up film for the young ones in case “Frozen 2” keeps selling out. Trust me.