WHAT IT'S ABOUT:
While on a forgettable first date together in Ohio, a black man and a black woman, are pulled over for a minor traffic infraction. The situation escalates, with sudden and tragic results, when the man kills the police officer in self-defence. Terrified and in fear for their lives, the man, a retail employee, and the woman, a criminal defense lawyer, are forced to go on the run. But, the incident is captured on video and goes viral, and the couple unwittingly become a symbol of trauma, terror, grief and pain for people across the country.
WHAT WE THOUGHT:
Queen and Slim being released on Valentine's Day might give you the wrong idea about this film. It's a love story for sure, but it's more of a beautiful piece of protest art than a traditional Romeo and Juliet type story, with just as much tragedy.
This movie is scriptwriter Lena Waithe and director Melina Matsoukas unpacking a lot of what is happening – and has been happening for a long time - in America as well as around the world to black people.
It uses the medium of film to demonstrate how commonplace harassment and abuse, by authority figures, is against black people. It's also about how the entire system is geared towards inequality and injustice for those who society deems to be less than.
That may seem like a story that you know through and through, but the talented leads of Daniel Kaluuya (Slim) and Jodie Turner-Smith (Queen) serve to suck you into this visual journey that is told through beautiful editing, a fast-paced script and a soundtrack that envelops you. Daniel and Jodie give understated performances that work so well. The young actors transcend the material, which is already good, and that made me want more of them. A need that is seemingly without limit.
As the pair, who bond through trauma and tragedy, traverse America on a forced road trip of sorts we as the audience get to see what happens when a country that is so divided along racial lines gets asked: "What would you do, if it was you?"
I have to say, though, as you can imagine, this film is not very easy to watch and depicts very violent scenes that left me heartbroken, to say the least. Not just because of what happens on screen but because of the wider message of "this is not new or going away time soon."
Reading this it might seem like this is a film designed for only American audiences to relate to, but I think it's applicable all over the world right now. In the time of large cultural shifts, like Brexit, making headlines and having an impact everywhere; it's important to look at what motivates people to perpetuate hate and prejudice. It's also important to look at what motivates people to defy the system that hates them.
What I walked away thinking about is how one of the biggest mistakes we can make is to think that racism and injustice don't exist because they are not overt, or because there are some signs of progress on the surface. Racism can be and is in a lot of circumstances, a series of microaggressions over a course of years that can often lead people to act out in a way that can be taken out of context when reported on.
It's also important, when watching a movie like this, to understand that it exists on multiple levels. Yes, it's about love on the run. Yes, it is not perfect. And ultimately, yes, it is about race. Queen and Slim is vast. It contains multitudes.
Everyone should go watch this movie for sure, but I also want to say that if you suffer from anxiety and an ever-increasing sense of dread, as I do, then perhaps do not go watch it alone. Or if you do, please practice self-care and know where your boundaries are and just how much you can take before it triggers you in the worst way.
I have to say that it did trigger me, and the after ramifications were felt for weeks afterwards. I was – and still am - angry.
WATCH THE TRAILER HERE: