Several weeks ago, I saw Lena Waithe on The Ellen DeGeneres Show promoting Queen & Slim. Waithe wrote the screenplay for the film, which stars Daniel Kaluuya and Jodie Turner-Smith as two people whose first date takes a very dramatic turn when they are pulled over by a white police officer.
Daniel Kaluuya plays Slim. You likely recognize him as Chris Washington in Get Out. For that role, he was nominated for a Golden Globe, Oscar, Screen Actors Guild Award and a BAFTA. In this film, he plays a religious young man (the license plate on his car reads “Trust God”) who finds himself in a diner booth, on a first date with a very uptight lawyer.
That lawyer, Queen, is played by Jodie Turner-Smith. This is Turner-Smith’s first leading role. I did a little bit of research on her and during that Google session, I discovered that she is in a relationship with Joshua Jackson (yes, Pacey Witter) and the gossip sites are speculating they are expecting a baby.
*Spoiler alert! Do not read on if you do not want to know anything more about the plot of this film.*
After a tense dinner, Slim is driving Queen home when they are pulled over by a police officer. The officer, clearly racist, orders Slim out of the car. He asks to see what’s in his trunk. When the officer takes his time rifling through his belongings, Slim asks, “Would you mind hurrying up? It’s freezing out here.” What follows is raised voices, Queen stepping out of the car and shots fired. In a matter of seconds, Queen and Slim find themselves with a painful choice - do they report what happened or flee the scene?
They decide to run. From that moment forward your heart is pounding for the entire rest of the film. There are countless moments where it seems they’ll be caught.
As I am sure you predicted, the intensity of the situation causes Queen and Slim to get to know each other very quickly. Unsure if they will make it, they share deeply honest thoughts on their ideal partner and their hopes for the future. That vulnerability leads to a romantic connection that is one of the most beautiful I’ve ever seen on screen.
Without giving too much away, their words to each other in the final 10 minutes will break your heart and haunt you for days afterward. In an opinion piece for The New York Times, Michelle Goldberg wrote, “The film itself kept me rapt; I cried through the end and left the theater with the dazed, disoriented feeling you get when a movie makes you momentarily forget everything else in your life.”
I do want to say, the gun violence in this movie is brutal and the cameras do not cut away. These scenes are usually reserved for mafia-themed stories where gratuitous violence is expected. All throughout the theater, fellow audience members were audibly gasping, covering their mouths or placing their hands over their eyes.
Queen & Slim was not nominated for any Golden Globe Awards (which are coming up January 5, 2020) but I sincerely hope the Academy Awards and Screen Actors Guild recognize the writing, directing, acting and music selection in this powerful film.
As I often do after I’ve watched something incredible, I fell down a rabbit hole attempting to learn as much about its creation process as possible. Below are several articles I enjoyed and encourage you to read:
- ‘Queen and Slim’ director Melina Matsoukas protests police brutality with her film (Los Angeles Times)
- Queen & Slim's Costume Designer and Hairstylist on the Film's Powerful Imagery (Marie Claire)
- Lena Waithe Wants to Show People 'What It's Like to Be Black' With Queen & Slim (Parade)
- Queen & Slim Is Bonnie and Clyde for the Black Lives Matter Generation (Slate)
- How ‘Queen & Slim’ Production Designer Karen Murphy Mapped Out the Duo’s Route (Variety)