The standing ovation that followed ‘Queen and Slim’s final scene was a clear indication that the Melina Matsoukas’ feature film had struck a chord and warmed its way into the hearts of the select audience invited to the Nigerian premiere of the critically acclaimed movie
‘Queen and Slim’ is a fine piece of art! It’s everything a contemporary story of star-crossed lovers should be and more.
The multiple award-winning music video producer ( of Rihanna’s ‘We Found Love’ and Beyonce’s ‘Formation’) makes a calculated show of portraying black art so much that there’s hardly any superficial detail in Queen and Slim. Not Queen’s leopard print death dress and definitely not the sex scene!
Emmy award-winning writer Lena Waithe equally makes a very solid statement with the ‘Queen and Slim’ story. It joins the increasing number of Hollywood screenplays popular for their protest-like approach to social injustice while showcasing ‘Black Lives Matter’ and Black excellence themes.
The not so sudden rise of this sub-genre has grown momentum in the last two years with the likes of Ava Duvernay’s Netflix limited series ‘When They See Us’ and George Tillman’s 2018 drama ‘The Hate U Give’ still garnering positives reviews.
Queen (Jodie Turner-Smith) and Slim (Daniel Kaluuya) are an unlikely pair from their first date after swiping right on each other’s Tinder profiles. Queen is a high handed criminal attorney with everything seemingly under control. Slim, on the other hand, spots a rough beard line and an unkempt fro, both pointers to his lackadaisical view of life. His demands are small and childish but the duo is an instant favourite in spite of their obvious disparity. Their chemistry, oblivious to them, is heartwarming and a perfect foundation for their tragic end.
Waithe subtly foreshadows the looming tragedy from the very first scene. Queen says to Slim that she agreed to go on a date because a Judge convicted an individual she defended and sentenced him to death. When Slim questions the nameless individual’s guilt or lack of it, Queen points out that the state should not determine who lives or dies. This conversation especially when she adds that Ohio is one of the 33 states in the US that legalizes capital punishment, establishes the story’s central idea.
The plot takes an anticipated twist when a White cop pulls the couple over for a minor driving offence. Slim’s attempt to overpower the Cop after he aims and fires at Queen ends with the Cop fatally shot. Queen (influenced by her knowledge of the thin chances of an acquittal) convinces Slim to drive them to Florida, a move that begins a 6-day manhunt that ends on a heart wrenching note.
Slim and Queen as characters embody African-American victims of police brutality hence their god-like representation. However, Waithe brilliantly creates two perspectives of their characters- one taken from the viewpoint of the black community after their cop-killing video goes viral and the other between Queen and Slim. Their budding love story becomes the story’s larger than life perspective.
A number of key elements make ‘Queen and Slim’ unforgettable. The story and its dialogue is incomplete without the film’s striking soundtracks.The selection of songs ranging from rap to soul, gospel and afrobeats (guaranteed to earn it a key to the hearts of its Nigerian audience) give a beyond basic insight into black history through music.
Cinematographer, Tat Radcliffe does a fine job capturing classic shots. The unending roll out of varying wide shots of American’s lush landscapes and targeted close-up shots of black skin will give you one more reason to fall in love with the idea of black excellence.
But it’s Daniel and Jodie’s performance as Slim and Queen that’ll blow you away completely. Kaluuya is arguably one of Hollywood’s most sort after young actors.
As Slim, Kaluuya maintains an applaudable attachment to Slim for the entirety of the film. It’s an attachment that’ll leave you heartbroken in spite of the film’s predictable end. As Queen, Jodie Turner-Smith is regal, obnoxious and sensual when she needs to be.
The chemistry between the stars is intense and and unforgettable.
‘Queen and Slim’ is currently showing in cinemas across Nigeria.