“Queen & Slim” (REVIEW) Gripping Despite Some Flaws

(from left) Slim (Daniel Kaluuya) and Queen (Jodie Turner-Smith) in Queen & Slim, directed by Melina Matsoukas.
(from left) Slim (Daniel Kaluuya) and Queen (Jodie Turner-Smith) in Queen & Slim, directed by Melina Matsoukas.

“Queen & Slim” is now in theaters from director Melina Matsoukas, starring Daniel Kaluuya and Jodie Turner-Smith. This story centers on a young couple that go on their first date and when they are pulled over and a police officer is killed, these two strangers will be forced to go on the run together. This movie has been on my watch-list since I saw the first promo image. However, unfortunately it turned out to be a bit of a mixed bag for me, yet in the end was a film I enjoyed. There were flaws to it but there were also many things it did very well. First the performances from Kaluuya and Turner-Smith were phenomenal and perfectly tailored for their roles as two people who grow from essentially being strangers, to becoming much more than that. I think the evolution of their relationship was the strongest part of the story. But it at times got in the way of the ‘couple on the run’ plot-line that was the clear focus.

The script tries to balance both love and escape. But through the character choices these two elements felt forced together as opposed to seaming into one fluid narrative. To connect with the characters, there needs to be a natural connection to their decision making, and it was lacking. Choices felt unnecessarily extreme in places, and unrealistic in others. The characters would switch between seeming intent on wasting time, to having a sudden urgency. As the viewer putting yourself in their position, to imagine what moves you would make to keep your freedom, was more frustrating than it was compelling.

Still though, the chemistry between Turner-Smith and Kaluuya was able to make it work. Kaluuya is a talent that will be gracing the screens for years in a variety of roles, and in this one he captures all the emotional expression needed throughout the ups and downs of their journey. This is the first I’ve seen of Turner-Smith and she poured her heart into this role. Despite the writing hindering her characters likability frequently. Bokeem Woodbine was excellent as well and made the most of his supporting role with a clear effort that sold his persona nicely. Another positive was the direction. It was subtle, not flashy at all, but still coated with an artistic styling that l loved. It created a mood and atmosphere that complemented the edginess of the story. The camera techniques were methodical, and it allowed the visual performances from Kaluuya and Turner-Smith to carry the emotional current of the story. With the musical score coming in to effectively heighten the mood of scenes.

(from left) Goddess (Indya Moore), Uncle Earl (Bokeem Woodbine), Queen (Jodie Turner-Smith) and Slim (Daniel Kaluuya) in Queen & Slim, directed by Melina Matsoukas.

Yet again, questionable character choices, in a story-line key on character choices does hinder the investment at times. There were also political messages that could’ve been better developed as well. I think had the dialogue framed these elements with more depth that certain scenes would have landed with emotional impact. As opposed to coming off more as shock-value imagery. This added with a story-progression that seemed illogical in places, with many characters making choices that fit too much into the intended message the writers wanted to convey, hindered what could’ve easily been a fantastic film.

As it was, I think it’s certainly a good movie. The quality does outweigh the shortcomings, and even with a run-time that stretches longer than needed I did enjoy it. I think some will have a hard time connecting with it because of the issues I mentioned. But I recommend checking it out to see for yourself if you’ve found the trailers appealing. It’s beautiful in places and will have you scratching your head in others. But with an artistic eye to the direction, and Kaluuya and Turner-Smith bringing in great performances, it’s certainly worth a shot.

GRADE: 80%



Queen & Slim (2019) Poster.jpg