Articles:‘Queen & Slim’ is a study of race, gender and inclusiveness in America




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By Samantha Ofole-Prince
Photos courtesy of Universal Pictures

(from left) Slim (Daniel Kaluuya) and Queen (Jodie Turner-Smith)

It’s hard not to love “Queen & Slim.” The chemistry between British actors Daniel Kaluuya and Jodie Turner-Smith who gel so perfectly well together, the cinematography, the subject, score, story and deft direction by first time feature film director Melina Matsoukas, all brilliantly mesh together. A classic American road movie with a little comedy, a lot of drama and romance, it follows a black couple who wind up on the wrong side of the law after getting pulled over for a minor traffic infraction.

Queen (Turner-Smith) is a criminal defense lawyer in Ohio who goes on a date with Slim (Kaluuya) a retail worker she meets online. Far from her type, he chews his meals rather noisily, is too mild mannered and seems rather dull, but after a bad day at work she felt like some company, and he was available, or so she informs him during the date. On their way back after a meal at a local eatery, Slim is pulled over by a ruthless cop who decides to search his vehicle. When both complain, the cop enacts force, shooting Queen as she reaches for her cellphone. A struggle ensues and Slim fearing for his life shoots the cop. Shocked and scared, Slim wants to turn himself in, but Queen talks him out it, and they flee to her uncle’s home in New Orleans to hatch a plan. With the incident captured on police video cam, the two unlikely fugitives become local heroes to the community, but with a $250,000 bounty on their heads, staying alive and a step ahead of the police becomes their biggest challenge.

(from left) Slim (Daniel Kaluuya) and Queen (Jodie Turner-Smith)

Written by Lena Waithe and directed by Melina Matsoukas, the film executes a tricky balancing act: It depicts murderers who fall in love and humanizes them without romanticizing their actions. Both are protagonists who were undoubtedly meant to be antiheroes and the brilliance of this film is that it doesn’t seek to shove the perils of racial injustice, police brutality and systematic racism down the viewer’s throat, but simply tells a story aesthetically and leaves audiences to digest it.
“I wanted to tell a story about two very different black people who are forced to be in a car together, who ultimately fall in love and around whom the outside world would create their own story and mythology. The story really comes down to the heroes that we create for ourselves to give us hope,” says Waithe.

Bookeem Woodbine (left) and Indya Moore (right)

A study of race, gender and inclusiveness in America, Matsoukas tackles Waithe’s script with careful craftsmanship allowing it to fit finely into a long line of American films about outlaw couples on the run such as Arthur Penn’s “Bonnie and Clyde” and Terrence Malick’s “Badlands.” Though a tad unrealistic, but still thought-provoking, the film does have convincing and lovable characters and two terrific performances from Jamaican native Turner-Smith and Kaluuya who is becoming such a versatile actor and a solid support from Bokeem Woodbine who plays uncle Earl, an aging pimp and war veteran.

There’s so much more to “Queen & Slim” that can be dissected and discussed as it strives to encourage a discourse on race relations in America. Everyone is flawed and the film is filled with layers. From the racist cop who pulls Slim over without reason, those who celebrate the cop’s death to the protagonists, this is one timely film which touches on self-defiance, racial discrimination, poverty, our view of heroes, black love and black resistance. And like the best road pictures, this one leaves you with an almost physical sense of having come on a very, very long emotional distance.

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