Queen and Slim is a story that needs to be told. The struggle with unnecessary excessive police force is existent today and especially in the USA where this film is located. Along with protagonists Queen (played by newcomer Jodie Turner-Smith) and Slim (Get Out’s Daniel Kaluuya), the audience are taken on a six day risky runaway journey among the vast and beautiful green landscapes of Southern America. You will feel like you are riding with the couple in their turquoise Catalina Pontiac as they listen to their RnB playlists and hide from authorities to protect their own lives.
I agree with Melina Matsoukas, the debut director of the film, when she says “…we have to make people uncomfortable.” She certainly succeeded in making audiences feel on edge, shocked, uncomfortable and empathetic for characters’ lives and horrible situations in the film. The graphic and quick flashes of violence are intentionally confronting, delivering much need visceral snippets that make a point of showing what it is to be a racially vilified black person. Paralleled with these scenes are the contrasting moments of fragility and snippets of love shown between characters, enhancing the impending sense of tragedy, creating a thread of dread throughout the entire film.
Audiences become invested in Queen and Slims survival and melancholic emotions as you listen to their internal monologues. Voiceovers don’t match with corresponding scenes and this dissociation evokes a disorienting feeling, enhancing empathy for what life would be like for each character. This innovative technique as well as the film’s subtle and understated moments of comedy, add to its uniqueness and allow us to enter the world of Queen and Slim.
Words like ‘rise’ and ‘power’, images of fists and the constant appearance of crosses in the film trigger themes of violence, faith and a fractured society influenced by race relations. A thought-provoking and memorable scene in the film particularly addresses black struggles, pressures and stereotypes. Slim asks Queen, “Why do black people always have to be ‘excellent’?”
Even though there are literal references in the film to Queen and Slim as a “black Bonnie and Clyde” and even asked if they’re part of the Black Panthers, the most powerful difference is that they are merely forced to escape from the racially charged violence they were caught up in. This contemporary story is political, jarring and accessible to a wide audience. Black history and conflicts are the undertones detailed in this film and although technically not a true story, Lena Waithe’s script is a true depiction of what is still horrifyingly inflicted upon black Americans and people of colour.
Constant contrasts of love and hate, and peace and violence are perceptively explored through eloquent script-writing, a stunning soundtrack and unconventional film techniques. As the camera shakes when Slim slams a car door closed, or as the lens blurs in the night-time, we as an audience develop an intense and immediate connection to the struggles Queen, Slim and their loved ones face. You feel the losing battle they experience when confronted with racial discrimination and a bias judicial system. Queen and Slims transformation in behaviour and bond is unforgettable and emotional.
Movie Review By Zara Zampaglione