Queen and Slim is a film which is at times funny, and at others heartbreaking. What starts as a Tinder date quickly expands into a fast-paced, heartfelt story about two likeable, flawed, characters.
What I like most about this movie is that it doesn’t shy away from showing characters as flawed, or from showing consequences. Over the course of the film, though we grow to like the two protagonists, we also come to see their shortcomings. This only makes the relationship that forms between them seem more real and genuine. Additionally, the viewer is constantly made to consider the implications of the first key climactic moment of the film: the confrontation with the police officer that leads to the officer being killed in self-defence and Queen being injured. Throughout the film, we also see the implications of this on a wider scale, including the effect on the black community, and perhaps most thought provokingly a “copycat” crime committed by a young boy who is inspired by the two protagonists.
I think that this film’s strongest points are its beginning and its end. The beginning of the film lulls the viewer into a false sense of security with the rom-com type scene, before throwing the characters into the situation with the police officer. The ending of the film is tear-jerking. I don’t think I realised until the ending how much I was rooting for these characters throughout the film. The parallels with what the two protagonists said they wanted in a partner earlier in the film was especially moving, while finding out who had betrayed them was shocking. Another strength of this film was the way that Queen and Slim’s relationship developed over the course of the film, as they grew to trust and love each other.
In contrast, there were some parts in the middle of the film that I just wasn’t as interested in, where the pace slightly dragged or the chase became a bit repetitive. I also thought that it was perhaps slightly unrealistic that so many black characters were willing to turn a blind eye to the protagonists’ presence despite knowing the police were looking for them throughout the movie. But this is nitpicking – Queen and Slim is a gorgeously made and clever film, that really promotes discussions about things like police brutality, the way that the media represents people, and the way that individuals can become representatives of ideals that they might not even agree with.
One really clever thing about this movie is the fact that we don’t learn the real names of the main characters until the very end. The thing about this is you don’t realise you didn’t know the characters’ names until they are said – because of the title you just know them as ‘Queen’ and ‘Slim’. It really helps to make this film feel like you were catapulted into these two people’s lives without any introduction or explanation. The film doesn’t explain itself: it is secure in its script and in its stylistic elements and it unfolds in front of the audience. You either get wrapped up in the plot or you get left behind.
I hope that Queen and Slim does encourage viewers to really think about issues of police brutality, institutional racism, and how black people are presented in the media and viewed in real life. I think that it is a really relevant film in terms of current issues facing black people. I also think that one of the best things about this film is that it doesn’t encourage thinking in absolutes about these issues, it shows a more nuanced approach to it that I think is necessary for making actual change, because every individual has their own individual views and actions. I think we really see this in the “copycat” murder scene when Junior is at the protest and there is a black police officer who tries to help him by telling him to leave (which of course ends horribly as Junior then kills him, copying the people he sees as his ‘heroes’), and also with the white characters who do help Queen and Slim to hide. This isn’t a film about putting people into inflexible boxes.
Overall, I really enjoyed this film, and would recommend it. Daniel Kaluuya and Jodie Turner-Smith are amazing in their roles and their chemistry and portrayal of Slim/ Ernest Hinds and Queen/ Angela Johnson really bring the film to life, as does the clever script and the aesthetically pleasing look of the film.