PG Score: 8/10
Queen & Slim is a powerful, unrelenting, and important film. It marks the motion picture directorial debut of Melina Matsoukas, and boy, does she enter the fray with a bang. The movie centers on a young Black couple who are pulled over going home after their first date. That event serves as the starting point for a harrowing journey that tests their trust in those they encounter along the way, as well as in each other. Daniel Kaluuya and newcomer Jodie Turner-Smith both deliver knockout performances. Turner-Smith has been in a few TV series, but her first time on the big screen is an absolute triumph. She is charismatic, confident, and brings to life an enigmatic and memorable character.
Kaluuya is superb, as usual, and plays a more subdued and soft-spoken role here. Despite all of the havoc and danger present in their path, his character trudges through it with quiet composure. Kaluuya expertly plays the part and delivers an impressive performance. The chemistry between the two actors is the foundation on which the film is built and it is magnetic. From the playful banter to the deeper monologues, they are in sync every step of the way. Queen & Slim features some stunning cinematography. Everything from dimly lit parking lots in urban areas to sprawling fields in the Deep South is a visual feast. The aesthetic here is not only eye-catching, but serves a larger purpose in aiding in the contrast Matsoukas employs. There are various instances when the film will go to opposite extremes very quickly. It adds to the love vs. hate dynamic that is frequently touched on as well. The writing serves as vital social commentary and is deeply affecting. The more the storyline moves along, the more impactful the messaging becomes. A lot of it is very on the nose and forces the viewer into a place of uncomfortable contemplation. Many of the issues raised are very apparent in today’s society and urge you to consider them in regard to how they relate to everyday life. There are a few instances where the film was a bit heavy-handed when it did not need to be. It does a wonderful job of toeing the line for the most part, but there are a few lapses. In these infrequent occasions, the events seem overly-drastic just to drive home a point. Thankfully, these few hiccups don’t detract too much from the overall quality of this otherwise cinematic gem.
Queen & Slim is a heavy, grueling, and moving big screen debut for Melina Matsoukas. Kaluuya and Turner-Smith propel this hard-hitting tour de force into the realm of greatness. It is a necessary piece of filmmaking for everyone to experience.