A young black couple on their first date become criminals of circumstance and go on the run.
Queen and Slim is the feature film debut of seasoned music video director Melina Matsoukas and I left the cinema awe struck with how incredible it was. It honestly felt like a modern masterpiece with shots that felt instantly iconic.
The story follows Queen (Jodie Turner-Smith) and Slim (Daniel Kaluuya) as they navigate an awkward first date only to be pulled over by a police officer who pushes his authority too far. Feeling threatened Queen tries to record the officer, triggering events that lead them to flee. As they travel across the country they encounter people along the way in a series of vignettes that make a statement about racism in America, the violence it brings and the violence it provokes in opposition to it. Crucially though, this message isn’t the key to the films dramatic success. It is the growing relationship between Queen and Slim (names that are never uttered in the film) that propels it forward, a relationship that perhaps would have fizzled our were it not for the negative circumstances that kept them together.
The lead performances from Turner-Smith and Kaluuya are pitch perfect. Their chemistry slowly builds from those awkward first moments into something special that you want to see thrive and when their characters reference back to things they’ve learned about each other it gives real depth to their relationship.
Finally though there are the lyrical iconic shots I mentioned at the start of this review. The scenes where the images continue but a conversation from another point in time play in over the picture, the flash bulb of a photograph and the cross cut of an intimate moment in the couples relationship with a devastating consequence of it.
It marks Melina Matsoukas as a directorial voice to watch and it deserves as wide an audience as it can get.
Interestingly I think it would make an exceptional double bill with this years If Beale Street Could Talk. Another film about a black couple trying to keep love alive whilst fighting against racial oppression.