I have heard this movie being referred to as a “black Bonnie & Clyde.” That reference is even made in the film itself, but that does not feel very accurate.
Bonnie & Clyde were criminals and made their decision to do so. In the film Queen & Slim, Slim (Daniel Kaluuya) and Queen (Jodie Turner-Smith) wind up in trouble because of fate and they really had little to no choice.
On a first date, Slim and Queen wind up pulled over by a cop who clearly had racially inspired intentions and, in a struggle with him, kill the police officer. They go on the run, sparking a nation-wide manhunt and inspiring African-Americans with their plight.
Slim and Queen had a case of self-defense with the cop, and it feels as if the cop’s camera would have supported the argument, but it was obvious that neither of them believed that they would get a fair shake. Queen was even a lawyer, but she was the first of them to insist that they run.
These thoughts are thoughts that I cannot relate to because I have never had someone look at me and pre-judge me as black people are. A police officer approaching my car is an entire different situation than it would be for an African-American, and it is a situation that I will never be in, thankfully.
So their decisions are understandable, even though I cannot necessarily relate to them.
The rest of the film is a road trip movie as the two characters attempt to flee from the authorities.
The performances of the two lead actors are great. Daniel Kaluuya is exceptional as Slim, and newcomer Jodie Turner-Smith shows that she has a bright future. How this relationship develops across the movie is fascinating considering that they went from first date via Tinder to crossing the country as fugitives. The strains on the couple show early and, as they continue to grow closer, the romantic aspect of being on the run seem to draw them closer.
I am not sure this would be a relationship that would last forever because being thrust together in such a violent and sudden manner may not create the deepest connection.
One of the more controversial aspects of the film is how the killing of the cop by Slim resonates with the black community of the country, so much so that there are black people along Slim & Queen’s path that go out of their way to aid them and prevent their capture, despite there being a heavy bounty on their heads. The film is showing how that powder keg of racial instability is still alive in the US and how it does not take much to ignite it once again.
The film did feel a little long, but it is beautifully shot and the length allows the audience to get to know our two characters deeper. I think that you could shave off maybe ten minutes and the film would be tighter, but it is a minor critique.
By the way, the character of Uncle Earl (Bokeem Woodbine) stole every scene he was in and was one of the most fascinating characters on the docket. I would have loved to have seen more with him.
Queen & Slim was a provocative movie that had a message about racial divisiveness and life for black people. It does not simply portray anyone in one manner, as both sides are seen as problematic. It is a strong film, directed well by Melina Matsoukas. You’ll come out thinking.