Queen & Slim: anything to make an escape

16/11 · Por HBO · Reading 3 min.

What at first seemed like just another online date will end up turning into a chase across the entire United States. Start your engine and make your escape.

A movie with a personality of its own that also recalls Bonnie and Clyde

Queen & Slim (2019) is the debut film from Melina Matsoukas, a director who has been making music videos since 2006 (for Whitney Houston, Rihanna, Beyoncé, Christina Aguilera, Alicia Keys, Lady Gaga and Jennifer López, among others). In 2017, she tackled directing for television series with episodes of Master of None and Insecure. Not surprisingly, her first feature calls to mind her musical origins: the film is an explosion of carefully crafted aesthetics and heavy on the rhythm, in which a young Black couple take to the road fleeing the police.

Although Arthur Penn's classic Bonnie and Clyde (1967) is the most obvious reference, it is actually Tony Scott’s True Romance (1993) that comes closer in terms of visual precedents. Scott was also a director and producer of music videos, and two of his essential films (which should not be forgotten), The Hunger (1983) and True Romance, deliver a rhythmic and stylized style. True Romance, you will remember, was written by Quentin Tarantino and tells the story of a passionate couple (Christian Slater and Patricia Arquette) who are also plunged into violence. In the same family (in both senses of the word), another obligatory point of reference is Thelma & Louise (1991), directed by Ridley Scott, famed brother of the late Tony. Queen & Slim is a road movie like Thelma & Louise, and its protagonists’ journey into the world begins with an accidental crime, as also happens in the endearing film starring Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis.

 

Racism and criminality

This is now the story goes: Slim (Daniel Kaluuya) and Queen (Jodie Turner-Smith) make contact on Tinder and arrange to meet at a diner. The date does not go well: they don't seem to get each other, everything is really uncomfortable. Queen hasn't had a good day, but Slim makes an effort to improve the situation. Then, in the car, a bit of flirting between them causes Slim to drive a little carelessly, and a patrol car soon orders them to stop. The police officer, a white man, makes Slim get out of the car. He frisks him, abusing his power, looking for a fight. Beyond a doubt, he exudes police racism. There is a struggle, things get out of control, and Queen and Slim make an escape that will take them to the highway, across state lines, on a journey filled with action, drama and the complexities of racial issues in the United States.

And so, intolerance and prejudices make their presence felt as the inevitable levers of further negative consequences, in which the victims end up marked and stigmatized as criminals. However, the case goes viral on social media, meaning that out there, on the road, the couple finds a good number of people who are on their side.

Queen & Slim undoubtedly makes us think about the current times, about Black Lives Matter, police brutality, the death of George Floyd, about the ever-painful subject of racism in the United States.

 

The actors and chemistry

Daniel Kaluuya has worked on several television series, but his breakthrough came with Get Out (2017), the Jordan Peele film that also earned him a sizable number of awards and nominations. Among those nominations, Best Actor at the Oscars and the Golden Globes. In 2018, he took home the BAFTA EE Rising Star Award; and the Black Film Critics Circle also gave him its Rising Star Award that same year.

Jodie Turner-Smith likewise comes from working on several television series. Queen & Slim brought her even more attention. The chemistry—because it did come in the end—between her character and Kaluuya's was significant.

The film’s cast includes Bokeem Woodbine (Ray, The Fright Night Files, the series Fargo); Flea, the oddball bassist for Red Hot Chilli Peppers; and Chloë Sevigny (Big Love, We Are Who We Are, Boys Don't Cry).

 

Coming this November, don’t miss Queen & Slim, on HBO and HBO GO.

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