Queen & Slim: A love letter to black life

Daniel Kaluuya and Jodie Turner-Smith star in Queen & Slim, the ‘black’ Bonnie and Clyde. Picture: Supplied
Daniel Kaluuya and Jodie Turner-Smith star in Queen & Slim, the ‘black’ Bonnie and Clyde. Picture: Supplied

Queen & Slim

Director: Melina Matsoukas

Starring: Daniel Kaluuya, Jodie Turner-Smith, Bokeem Woodbine, Jahi Di’Allo Winston

4.5/5

Queen & Slim portrays a love story that develops under harsh conditions, getting the viewer both hopeful and anxious at the impending doom lingering throughout. The plot doesn’t try too hard to keep the viewer interested: Queen (Jodie Turner-Smith) and Slim (Daniel Kaluuya) meet on an awkward Tinder date that concludes in an altercation with an aggressive white police officer who ends up dead, killed by Slim.

From New Orleans to Florida, we follow the duo on a life-threatening journey as they run from the police, with interludes of tender moments of joy – from feeling the breeze outside the window of a moving car to randomly climbing horses on the side of the road and the sensual sex scene that’s intercut with a local protest.

These moments bring colour and emotional intensity to the film. They feel urgent in the face of precarious black life. Although you might not make it, and the forces may be working against you, remember to enjoy the ride; remember to feel the freshness of the air; remember, most importantly, to love to the end, the film seems to say.

It will capture your heart and, as it did to me, might even draw a tear or two. It is a love letter to black life, not only because it is about two black people falling in love under dreadful conditions, but because it seems to remind us as black people to love even when things are burning all around us.

This is Melina Matsoukas’ first feature film, but it has her signature all over it, from her direction of episodes of romcom Insecure, and Beyoncé’s Formation video. It is raw, unpretentious and honest.

The minimal lighting accentuating brown skin; the familiar sight of Slim’s hair being cut; Goddess (played by Indya Moore) removing Queen’s braids to release her natural curly hair; and other moments portraying black people in realistic rather than manipulated versions of their everyday lives; these are the kinds of refreshing visuals we don’t see enough of on our big screens.

The music marries everything neatly, with Solange’s Almeda, Luther Vandross’ Never Too Much and even Lauryn Hill’s new track made exclusively for the film. The film will take you on a seemingly slow yet intense journey that will have you emotionally engaged.

When it was done, I sat in the cinema for about 10 minutes to pull myself together. I stepped outside, and the sight of the metro police outside the Rosebank Mall re-instilled the sense of anxiety I had sat with throughout the film. But that sight and anxiety inspired something else that the film also inspired: an urgent sense to carry on living and loving as intensely as I could with every available second.

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