Basically: Compelling story, interesting concepts and technique, Jodie Turner-Smith’s incredible bone structure.
Summary: On their way home from a first date, a young black couple is pulled over.
Queen & Slim is something that got a lot of buzz a while ago, came out, and then pretty much disappeared, which is a shame because everyone here is very talented and there are a lot of interesting things going on. It has some commentary on social events the US has witnessed in the past few years, but my takeaway was that Queen & Slim is about the different contributors of racism, as well as the ability to go beyond initial perception of someone, typically based on the color of their skin. We are more or less ushered along in this manner- we are introduced to Queen and Slim- a young black couple- and witness what they think of each other and how these two are typically perceived in a small town. We learn more about them individually as they are forced to spend time together and let their guards down. Along the way, we get glimpses of how others perceive them and how they are being presented. And eventually, they begin to grow together and let the other person in. At the end of the day, Queen and Slim are just two people who are looking to be seen past those first impressions, longing to be known as people rather than saviors or representatives of a movement they unintentionally started.
It definitely works: the characters feel like genuine people making actual decisions. Lena Waithe is a hell of a writer, trusting in her actors. There’s an excellent balance of sparse, realistic dialogue, that allows the actors to fill in the blanks. It showcases the best of Daniel Kaluuya’s acting abilities and gives Jodie Turner-Smith a legitimate debut into film.
The downsides are that it’s a little too long and some of the tension is lost. It also suffers from being repetitive as the characters have to stop and go and stop and go. It’s appropriate since they’re on the run and all, but the run time is about two hours and it probably could have been cut by 20 minutes or so. It’s also a little… well. I don’t quite know how to describe it. There are quite a few interludes and montages that utilize dialogue as voiceovers, rather than showing us the characters talking. It works for one scene before it starts to feel a little gimmicky. Director Melina Matsoukas is primarily a music director, so I expect that has something to do with it.
None of that stops the ending from being any less powerful, though.