So, this film isn’t actually scheduled to come out here in the U.K. for another month and a half, but thanks to my local cinema’s Secret Screenings (thanks Cineworld!) I got to see it early.
I hadn’t heard much about this film, in fact, I’d heard next to nothing. I knew it existed and as far as I knew was a love story; I was kind of right, but not really, we’ll get into that. It put me in mind of If Beale Street Could Talk after watching for a while, a film I really enjoyed, so that’s a good start.
I do enjoy watching and reviewing these films early, it makes me feel like I’m in on a secret that only a few people know, although, since I write about it, it’s not much of a secret I suppose, let’s keep it between us, okay?
A first date goes horribly wrong for two mis-matched young African Americans, a police officer is killed in a traffic stop gone wrong, and the two set off cross-country to try and outrun the law.
I applaud this film for telling a topical tale using a classic framing device, that of two fugitives on the lamb from the law; updating it with such a modern, and pressing issue was a bold move from the filmmakers, however, it has a few flaws in its execution.
I feel like the film is sometimes unfocused and distracted. The story it is trying to tell is a rather hefty one, so it’s focus on over-the-top comedy side characters is a little perplexing, maybe even against message when some of these characters work from a framework of stereotype.
A film trying to make a serious point about racial profiling and police brutality could have its moments of levity, but having one character be an outrageous black pimp is probably working against the message a little, especially when the script works so hard to make the two main characters as anti-stereotypical as possible.
Along with its distracting comedy characters, it also has a tendency to get sidetracked within its own narrative. Their journey felt to me like a video game side quest, in the way it sends the two to different people, who don’t have what they’re looking for but they know a friend who does, and this happens one too many times for my liking. This can work a few times, but after a while it starts to feel very tired and obvious that the writers don’t really know how to progress the journey.
The films main positive is the way it builds the relationship between the two leads, I like how the whole situation is established quickly and then they have to deal with the consequences just as swiftly. You can see them develop from people on a first date with nothing in common to Star-crossed lover, and that escalation feels natural; they find what they’re looking for in each other with great difficulty, it’s not treated as a sure thing for most of the film.
All this comes to a head by the end, when it seemingly competes with Return of the King for ‘Most endings before the actual ending’ accolade. Truthfully, I felt the film could have finished ten minutes earlier and not lost anything.
All this being said, I did reasonably enjoy Queen & Slim. There were things wrong with it, but it feels like it has a genuine heart, like it comes from the heart, with an actual message, it may be flawed, but that’s just the nature of a project conceived out of passion, you may not see the faults right in front of your face, as obvious as they may be to others.
I enjoyed the characters, and the journey they took, there was also some marvellous camera work and direction, and I feel with a tighter focus it might have been one of my favourites this year, as it is though, it’s an enjoyable, if flawed Bonnie and Clyde story that feels disappointingly like a missed opportunity.