It's a formulaic road trip but of enormous figurative importance.
Queen & Slim
Director: Melina Matsoukas
Screenplay: Lena Waithe
Cast: Daniel Kaluuya (Get Out), Jodie Turner-Smith (Newness)
Runtime: 2h 12m
By: John DeSando
“Thank you for this journey, no matter how it ends.” Queen Jodie Turner-Smith)
Bonnie and Clyde in black: Queen& Slim depicts an African American couple racing to Florida and hopefully Cuba from Cleveland, where they have a run-in with the law, and a white officer gets killed. In much of the film, hidden motifs emerge, such as their reversing slaves’ journeys north toward freedom a century and a half ago.
Queen and Slim (Daniel Kaluuva), she an atheist attorney and he a passive religious type, encounter in sometimes kind, cliched folks along the way a willingness to help the fugitives, despite the quarter-million each on their heads. Director Melina Matsoukas carefully and effectively mixes the exhilaration they feel as they get to know each other and the undercurrent of dread that they will soon meet an ill fate.
The success in acting and direction is in the audience’s identifying with the couple and encouraging their truancy. Real characters are developed and the audience is happy to ride along.
Of course, the racism in the white cops is to be expected, and, of course, a lone black cop is applauded when he helps them escape. However, life is not that simple as exemplified by the variety of humanity they meet along the way, some more interested in the reward than kindness.
Although BlackKkKlansman covered similar racist territory recently, it wasn’t as effective as this film in evoking an emotional connection with the principals and outrage at the danger blacks face each day that racism among whites is allowed to thrive anywhere in the USA. Queen & Slim can be enjoyed for the road trip thriller motif, and it can be appreciated for the figurative interpretation of the enduring dangers African Americans face even today. This is teaching and entertaining cinema of a most modern kind.
John DeSando, a Los Angeles Press Club first-place winner for National Entertainment Journalism, hosts WCBE’s It’s Movie Time and co-hosts Cinema Classics. Contact him at JDeSando@Columbus.rr.com