Movie ReviewsQueen and Slim – A Powerful Yet Overly-Ambitious Topical Drama

Keith NoakesNovember 28, 201978/100
Daniel Kaluuya, Jodie Turner-Smith, Bokeem Woodbine
Lena Waithe
Melina Matsoukas
18A (Canada), R (United States)
Running Time
132 minutes
Release Date
November 27th, 2019
Overall Score
Rating Summary
Queen and Slim is an overly-ambitious drama that definitely swings for the fences but isn't quite a home run.

We live in a politically divided time rampant with inequality. These themes have more or less been covered in countless films and now Queen and Slim is another film to add to that growing list. While the film doesn’t necessarily bring anything new to the table in terms of its message about racial inequality (which is kind of sad in and to itself, film excluded), it makes up for it by hammering down its point with a lack of subtlety and context. This would ultimately overshadow what still was a powerful albeit a little too predictable drama tempered by the film’s need to go out of its way to make said point. Despite this, the film wasn’t quite doom and gloom.

Queen and Slim follows a man named Ernest and a woman named Angela (Kaluuya and Turner-Smith) whose first date would quickly de-escalate after a questionable traffic stop results in the shooting death of a police officer. Eventually earning the nicknames of Queen and Slim for their efforts, the pair would be forced to go on the run in order to evade authorities. Suffice it to say that this ordeal would put their already tenuous relationship to the test. Both were already outcasts in their social circles and this juxtaposition of perspectives was interesting to watch as it would shape their journey over the course of the film. It was just a shame that we didn’t get to learn much more about them as their individual backstories would get overshadowed by the overarching plot.

What made Queen and Slim still so compelling to watch was Ernest and Angela. Their journey saw them make several stops and meeting a diverse cast of characters along the way but this was always going to be Ernest and Angela’s story. The problem with it all was the lack of tension as a sense of danger was not there for Ernest and Angela. Their story felt too separate from the rest of the film as it failed to consolidate it with its overarching commentary on racial discrimination. It definitely goes there but it wasn’t as impactful as it could have. At the end of the day, these two vulnerable characters, each with nowhere to go or to turn to, took refuge in one another and worked together to survive in what was the most gripping arc of the film.

The film was beautifully shot in a unique style thanks to Matsoukas’ experience directing music videos but in the end, the best part of Queen and Slim undoubtedly was the excellent nuanced performances from Kaluuya and Turner-Smith as the damaged Ernest and Angela (a.k.a. Queen and Slim) respectively. As the fate of the film rested entirely on their shoulders, they each handled themselves admirably. While Kaluuya was his usual charming self, this was Turner-Smith’s film through and through as she delivers a powerful performance that saw her taking charge and holding her own against Kaluuya. Meanwhile, Woodbine was fun to watch in limited screen time as Angela’s uncle Earl.

Overall, Queen and Slim may not quite hit the target but it should still be commended for trying while Kaluuya and Turner-Smith still make it well worth the watch.

*still courtesy of Universal Pictures*

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