Fugitive road movies struggle to cover new territory, with fierce competition from genre defining giants. Queen and Slim takes well-known elements from different sources and creates an interesting compound, adding its own surprising limits to pace and tension. After an altercation with a racist police officer leads to murder, the titular duo attempt to outrun law enforcement and retain their freedom together.
Lena Waithe’s script revels in sparkly dialogue between two characters with immediate depth. Slim’s religious faith is particularly endearing, with Daniel Kaluuya embodying unbridled charm and youthful naivety. Newcomer Jodie Turner-Smith falters slightly, failing to pull off Waithe’s often ethereal, sometimes sickeningly contrived sweet nothings. Still, the dynamic between these actors and the logical progression of the plot make for an engrossing watch. All while an original, relaxed motion is maintained – there seems to be little danger here.
The film takes the trouble to highlight some of the real world implications of the pair’s situation, but the impact is reduced through their status at the very periphery of the film. The effect pushes Melina Matsoukas’ otherwise steady direction off balance, losing the comfortable footing found dealing intimately with two characters. When the focus is there, the impressive score, brilliant soundtrack and gorgeous score make for a refreshingly chilled and emotionally exuberant take on the fugitive tale.
As a directorial debut, Matsoukas’ film falters only when scenes that push a message come off as off-puttingly garish. The same can be said of the heavy-handed romantic element, though settling into the vibe certainly helps. Perhaps the spoken sentiments are a touch melodramatic, but it’s easy to forget that Queen and Slim’s entire relationship should be rocketed by constant adrenaline. The mood, well held as it may be, seems to forget the fact that this situation is life or death.
CAST: Jodie Turner-Smith, Daniel Kaluuya, Bokeem Woodbine, Chloë Sevigny, Flea, Sturgill Simpson, Indya Moore.
DIRECTOR: Melina Matsoukas
WRITER: Lena Waithe
SYNOPSIS: On the run from the law after accidentally killing a racist policeman, Queen and Slim fight for their survival and happiness.