“Queen & Slim” Has Mixed Success With Its Explosive Message

Some films are easy to discuss. Others are difficult to break down, especially when it comes to their problematic elements. Queen & Slim decidedly falls into the latter category, mixing some really strong moments with a number of issues that holds it back. For all of the strong performances, compelling ideas, and quality cinematography on display, too many of the choices made, particularly in the back half of the movie, sabotage a potential laden tale. Instead of soaring towards the heights of Academy Award contention, it instead sinks down to become an interesting failure. Considering all of the potential here, it’s a definite disappointment.
The movie is a drama with a lot to say. At the start, we’re just observing the middle of a forgettable date between two African American individuals. The man (Daniel Kaluuya) and the woman (Jodie Turner-Smith) are not well matched. He works in retail and believes in religion, while she’s a criminal defense attorney and believes in facts, not faith. In short order, this is poised to be the first and only meeting between the two. Then, while he’s driving her home, their car is stopped by a police officer. Though we have come to know they’re good hearted, well educated, professional citizens, the cop only sees a potential arrest. The man is interrogated and his trunk searched, leading the woman, knowing the law, to exit the vehicle and begin recording the encounter on her phone. This escalates the situation, leading to the officer’s gun being fired, a struggle, and then the death of said cop. Knowing how this looks, regardless of the circumstances, the two flee, heading out on the run. As they head south to the home of her uncle (Bokeem Woodbine) in search of a way to get out of the country, their story becomes a media sensation, as the whole thing was caught on the squad car’s dash cam. What’s more, plenty of Americans are in support of their cause, leading to increased efforts by the police to bring them to justice. Now a couple, the pair have unwittingly become a symbol to many in the country. What was just a tragedy is now emblematic of a whole race’s feelings of anger, fear, grief, and trauma. Melina Matsoukas directs a screenplay by Lena Waithe, who co-wrote the story with James Frey. Tat Radcliffe handles the cinematography. Supporting players include Flea, Chloë Sevigny, Sturgill […]

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