- Film & TV
- 19 Feb 20
Queen & Slim's outlaw romance proves intense, but uneven.
Queen & Slim may be billed as the black Bonnie And Clyde, but Thelma & Louise feels like a much more apt comparison. Bonnie And Clyde was about criminals. Thelma & Louise was about women who became fugitives after defending themselves from gendered violence. Queen & Slim comparatively makes fugitives of characters merely trying to survive in America while being black.
Jodie Turner-Smith and Daniel Kaluuya play the title characters, who go on a disastrous Tinder date. Driving home, they are pulled over, and in a heart-poundingly tense exchange, Slim ends up killing the white cop in self-defence. Panicked and all-too-aware of how the criminal justice system will treat them, they go on the run.
It’s surprising that Lena Waithe’s writing is the most disappointing aspect of the film. While Kaluuya and Turner-Smith are impressive, their characters – Queen especially – remain hugely underdeveloped.
This weak characterisation detracts from the underbaked romance, itself regressively heteronormative: the sensitive man becomes more macho, the uptight shrew becomes more submissive. It’s more satisfying to view Queen & Slim as being about falling in trust, rather than falling in love – and this extends to the characters’ interactions with others. As they drive through the States en route to Cuba (a historical haven for black radicals), they find unexpected allies, united in awareness of the racism that haunts America and its police force.
Director Melina Matsoukas is known for working on videos with Beyoncé and, elevated by the incredible hip-hop soundtrack, Queen & Slim can feel like a series of brilliantly scored vignettes. Between the high-stakes action, there are dreamy interludes where the couple drive, dance, and connect. However, one choice – a Black Lives Matter protest intercut with a sex scene – feels tonally discordant and like a dangerous eroticising of black trauma.