Queen & Slim, by Cameron J. Czaja

When I first saw the trailer to Queen & Slim, I didn’t anticipate seeing it highly due to the premise. Ever since Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse and Us, I’ve been appreciating more films featuring people of color where race wasn’t the catalyst for the plot and Queen & Slim was going back to that. I think another reason why I wasn’t looking forward to this is because there was another film that came out last year (The Hate U Give) with a similar premise and it was done extremely well to the point where I didn’t think another film could top that. Is Queen & Slim another The Hate U Give or forgettable Oscar bait film? Let’s find out.

In Queen & Slim, a somewhat modern take on Bonnie and Clyde, we follow the title characters Queen and Slim (their real name don’t get mentioned until the end of the film) played by newcomer Jodie Turner-Smith and Daniel Kaluuya. We start out with them on their first date, which Queen agrees to only because she had a bad day at work. After their date they get pulled over by a cop due to Slim failing to use his turn signal, and things escalate when the cop instructs Slim to step out the car and begins to search the vehicle. Things turn worse when Queen provokes the cop, causing the officer to point his gun at Slim. A tussle ensues, ending with the cop being shot in self-defense. From there the couple has no choice but to run away from the scene of the crime since Queen (who is an attorney) says it’s the only way Slim will survive because he’s a black man who shot a white cop. Keep in mind, this is all before the opening credits.

Going into Queen & Slim with an open mind, I found myself having a more favorable with this film than I predicted. Maybe it’s because I always enjoy seeing a first time film director (Melina Matsoukas) do an exceptional job on film, but I think what really won me over were the title characters themselves.

Right off the bat in Queen & Slim, Slim (to me at least) came across as a very likable person as he identifies as a Christian by (almost) praying before every meal and living a sober life; he even has his license plate with the characters TRUSTGOD. Queen, however does not, believe in God, but she’s not militant about it. In fact, there’s a point in the film where she starts to have some belief as she offers to lead in prayer while staying at someone’s house for dinner while on the run. Maybe because she’s in this situation that she didn’t see coming is the reason enough to believe in something, even if it’s just for a little bit.

Aside for the characters, Queen & Slim reminds you that God is always with them while they’re on the run. One of the vehicles they use to get to their destination has a cross on the front mirror and it focuses on that during montages of their travels. I don’t know if this is done intentional or not, but it was very subtle and something that I enjoyed and hope more filmmakers can do, especially in mainstream films like this one.

Any complaints I have with Queen & Slim are with the ending. I didn’t hate it, but I felt very mixed on how the ending was executed. I will say though that there are some people that will dislike this film because the ending could come across as glorifying violence towards the police as certain characters support what Queen and Slim did to the cop at the beginning of the film. This would’ve bothered me, but what saved this film for me was Queen and Slim’s reaction towards the public behavior on the subject and how they don’t condone how the public is reacting to their crime.

Queen & Slim is not something that’ll end up on my “best of” list at the end of the year. Still, it was a well made film with characters you could support despite how they got themselves in their difficult situation. Definitely, not an easy watch as it has unexpected moments of violence, but it’s an interesting film about a subject that’s still going on today.

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