Not your average Bonnie & Clyde. Lena Waithe and Melina Matsoukas tell a beauty road-revenge fantasy in this enticingly beautiful film.
Love, loss, gripping adventures– this all began from a tinder date. Queen & Slim tackles tough subjects with style and grace. Vulture called it a “dive bar dipped in cherry lighting.” The colorful backdrop of New Orleans and deep-brown skin tones, the color of cobalt and amber soaking in the light and southern heat. Score, done by Devonte Hynes, is dripping with style. This is a love story, told by us and for us. Beauty is a co-star, along with the brilliance of Jodie Turner-Smith and Daniel Kaluuya. This film has soul, grit and complexity.
A young black couple, who remain unnamed until a news story at the end of the film, are on a exceedingly awkward Tinder date at a black-owned restaraunt. She, a resilient young lawyer, curtly does not want to give her date the time of day. He, very confident and strong in his beliefs, arrogantly flirts with her. When he’s pulled over by an overzealous cop, the movie shifts dramatically. I’m going to be honest, the trailer does not do what comes next justice. The cop aggressively interrogates the young man for no reason and pulls a gun on him, ready to kill– resulting in the woman stepping out of the car to help and gets shot in the leg by the cop. Fearful the police office will kill them in cold blood, the man wrestles to get free, pulls the trigger and shoots the cop in self-defense. This sets them on a journey from Ohio to New Orleans to South Florida, searching for help and freedom as the authorities nip at their heels. This prickly dynamic sets them on the run together, throwing their cell phones away as in a poetic understanding that there are no more [dating] options. They are in this together. The moody visual sets in and the plot drives into drama-mode.
This film is at its best when making the argument of the complexity of black joy and black pain. The characters inspire in each other a lovely recklessness to hang out car windows and feel the breeze, or sneak onto a farm to ride a horse. Or beautifully swaying their bodies together on the dance floor of a juke-joint while hot on Bourbon. In these moments, the film feels most urgent–an urgent art about the black experience. Artists are forced to tell the stories of the times. Lena and Melina tell the story of black suffering at the hand of a system built against us. There is resilience and texture bursting through the frame that draw you in during small conversations and long drives through the south. Costume design by Shiona Turini adds the extravagance, lending the movie a heightened quality against the colorful country backdrops and subtly becomes its own character throughout.
People are narrating this film as the “Black Bonnie & Clyde”. What’s so captivating about this film is that the original Bonnie and Clyde had to do something criminal to be in that position. Queen and Slim only had to exist. Being Black in America seems to be a larger crime than an actual crime. Queen and Slim continue to run in order to continue to exist. They become folk heroes to black folks, in a narrative of resistance and police brutality in the process. Their end destination is Cuba, where notorious black Liberation member Assata Shakur fled to after allegedly killing a State Trooper on the New Jersey Turnpike in 1973. To the public, their story was told through the police dash cam footage gone viral. They find shelter from those who recognize and empathize with them.
I can go on and on about the nature of this film and how carefully it was handled by Lena, Melina and everyone a part of it, but it’s a piece of art you just have to experience for yourself. What I took from it was that black anger can be beautiful and revolutionary. There is a reason you don’t know the names of these heroes. Queen & Slim offers an insight into the themes of love and hate.
What did you all think of the film? Comment below.