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REVIEW — “Queen and Slim”

They’re never once referred too as Queen or Slim

Queen and Slim is directed by Melina Matsoukas, written by Lena Waithe, and stars Daniel Kaluuya, Jodie Turner-Smith, Bokeem Woodbine, Chloë Sevigny, Flea, Sturgill Simpson and Indya Moore. It tells the story of two African-Americans who must go on the run after killing a police officer in self-defense during a traffic stop gone wrong. With a stellar cast and ambitious and energetic direction from Matsoukas, Queen and Slim is a stylish, political, and emotional thriller with two knockout performances from Kaluuya and Smith.

Melina Matsoukas is making her directorial debut here and if this is any indication, she’s got a bright future ahead of her. Her approach to this material is so fresh and ambitious and she’s able to create and maintain this really difficult tone to describe. In all its real-life horror, Queen and Slim is a warm film to watch. Rather than beat us over the head with political ideology, Matsoukas spends her time developing and crafting these characters into real people and making us care and truly invest in their struggle. Waithe’s script also wonderfully creates a romance that is a joy to watch unfold. We begin to feel like our two leads, wondering what their life would have been like, if not thrust into this situation. These characters feel trapped by fate here, trapped by a system that failed them. The politics of the film are handled with great care and when they are presented, hit you like a gut punch.

Daniel Kaluuya delivers another absolutely incredible performance here. He’s such a gifted and emotive actor that we shouldn’t expect anything less from him. The emotion he is able to convey from just his eyes alone is enough to bring tears to my eyes. He’s one of the best talents we have working and I can’t wait to see what he does next. Jodie Turner-Smith is fantastic here, and if she were not already this feels like a star-making role. She runs the gambit of emotions here and her arc consistently feels natural and earned. I could just sit and watch these two actors talk and be enthralled. The chemistry between the two is unmatched. Flea also makes an appearance which is nice.

On a technical level, Queen and Slim is pretty stellar. With a killer soundtrack and a lovely score, this almost feels like a road trip film. There are so many wonderful shots and they’re able to capture some really beautiful scenery throughout this story. There’s a great amount of visual storytelling to be seen, and the editing is used effectively. There are a few stylistic choices that didn’t quite work for me, one in particular really took me out of the film. But aside from that, Queen and Slim is a stylish, emotional journey with two fantastic performances. 4/5

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