BY// GRAHAM STEINBERG
A tight narrative willing to smash apart some huge storytelling traditions featuring breakout
performances from Daniel Kaluuya, Bokeem Woodbine (who I’ve been saying needs more feature roles since Fargo), and first time lead Jodie Turner Smith.
Beyond the powerful message on police brutality and the extremes that the Black community has to endure to escape it, Queen & Slim is about a very universal message of what we leave behind. Do we exist to succeed, achieve martyrdom or live for simple pleasures? It is a question that the film repeatedly asks itself but often wavers in answering.
You’ll be surprised to realize that this well polished and dazzling film comes from first time feature writer Lena Waithe and debut director Melina Matsoukas. The latter’s background in music videos is evident throughout the film where the fantastic diegetic soundtrack is the driving force of the plot. While I felt that the pacing was a bit cut and dry at times it was absolutely stunning to look at.
At times the film had trouble finding its footing, wavering between expressing a political message and the drama needed to make it work as a thriller. This left it feeling melodramatic at times and featuring some gratuitous scenes that should have been left out in the editing room.
But what I really loved about this film was how fearless it was in breaking traditions. Rather than establishing back story in its first act, it jumps right into the action and rather than giving you a satisfying conclusion it leaves the legacy of these characters ambiguous. Again, this film is about our legacy; how we are reborn through our actions whether they are political, spiritual or just from the simple nature of our existence. It asks if our actions make us immortal or if that responsibility is for those we leave behind.