By Bradley Lane
Queen and Slim was written and directed by black women, Lena Waithe and Melina Matsoukas. The latter had never directed a feature film before Queen and Slim but has decades of experience directing music videos, culminating in Beyoncé’s 2016 visual album, Lemonade. I emphasize their racial and gender identity because it is a key part of expression in Queen and Slim; this is because the lens through which the story is told is heavily influenced by their own experiences as black women in America.
The story of the film centers around Jodie Foster Smith and Daniel Kaluuya’s characters after their first date is interrupted by an incident with a disheveled police officer. This sets into motion a series of events that forces them to run away together, leaving their entire lives behind. Beginning in a sense of dread the film eventually gives way to a sense of liberation from the roles they were at one time forced into by the society in which they lived.
The film exists within the tropes of the runaway romance, while asserting a different perspective into the genre. In fact, Queen and Slim is often overtly referential to classics of the genre, notably Bonnie and Clyde (1967) and Thelma and Louise (1991). It feels as though the filmmakers had great reverence for these films but failed to identify with the characters historically explored in these types of films. In response, they are asserting themselves within the genre in order to utilize the runaway romance tropes to express their own relationships with black identity.
Queen and Slim serves not only as a fun and entertaining moviegoing experience, but also as proof of the value of diversification within the film industry. The more types of people who are able to make and produce films, the more stories we, as the audience, get to experience. Filmmakers control the writing and framing of the narrative, so cinema is a uniquely advantaged art form for expressing individual experience. Experiencing a different culture is visceral and more emotionally effective than just learning about it, which makes cinema especially empathetic, and if there is anything American discourse needs now more than ever, it is empathy toward other cultures.
Queen and Slim is a clear affirmation of black individualism and is an exceptionally made film, even if it is a bit derivative of the genre it pays homage to. -4/5 stars