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Queen & Slim

Review by Rich Cline | 4.5/5   MUST must see SEE

Queen & Slim
dir Melina Matsoukas
scr Lena Waithe
prd James Frey, Lena Waithe, Melina Matsoukas, Michelle Knudsen, Andrew Coles
with Daniel Kaluuya, Jodie Turner-Smith, Bokeem Woodbine, Chloe Sevigny, Flea, Sturgill Simpson, Indya Moore, Jahi Di'Allo Winston, Benito Martinez, Gralen Bryant Banks, Dickson Obahor, Bryant Tardy, Melanie Halfkenny
release US 27.Nov.19,
UK 31.Jan.19
19/US eOne 2h11

woodbine sevigny flea

turner-smith and kaluuya
Beautifully directed by Melina Matsoukas, this dramatic thriller follows two likeable strangers on a topical road trip. Skilfully written with a sharp sense of humour along with some serious tension, Lena Waithe's script cleverly balances audience sympathy while being truthful about the bigger themes. It's a gorgeous, sometimes heart-stopping film not only tells a hugely engaging story but makes some chilling observations about life in the United States.
In Cleveland, Queen (Turner-Smith) picks Slim (Kaluuya) on a dating app because he looks sad. Then after their first date, a cop (Simpson) pulls them over for failing to signal. Slim does everything to comply, but the officer pulls his gun and the situation escalates into violence. So Queen and Slim run, heading to a well-connected uncle (Woodbine) in New Orleans. As they plan an escape to Cuba, they turn to the Shepherds (Flea and Sevigny) for help. Meanwhile, the media dubs them "the black Bonnie and Clyde", making them folk heroes to African-Americans.
This odyssey works on several layers, as these two people reluctantly begin to find common ground. "I'm used to saying I'm OK when I'm not," Slim admits, and Queen knows what he means. So the discoveries they make about each other, within the context of American culture, are both provocative and moving. And the film feels playful, with striking visuals (including groovy cars and clothing) and a vibrant song score, blending moments of sweetness and humour with some seriously shocking jolts.

Kaluuya is terrific as an earnest young man who always tries to do the right thing, horrified that now he's a fugitive cop-killer. And Turner-Smith brings textured steeliness as a lawyer who knows what kind of trouble they're in and is far more realistic about what they need to do. Even smaller side characters feel like they have larger lives off-screen, adding knowing angles to the complex topic at hand. Standouts include a small-town teen (Winston) who learns the wrong lesson.

The entire cast and crew skilfully engage the audience by maintaining hope even when things look increasingly risky. Queen and Slim are accidental criminals, so it's impossible not to root for them to find a way out as well as perhaps to find each other. Even in these extraordinary circumstances, their story has a universality that evokes warmth and meaning, unfolding as a series of surprises that invert the usual narrative. And where it goes is important.

cert 15 themes, language, violence, sexuality 30.Nov.19

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© 2019 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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