Queen & Slim15
You almost have to feel sorry for Americans. Not for the Twitter twat running their country, that goes without saying. No, simply for the fact that their home grown acting talent are constantly getting nailed by Brits stealing plump roles.
This feature must come as an even greater disappointment to their young acting fraternity as it sees a double UK whammy taking the leads in a very US production.
Meeting in a restaurant are Queen (Jodie Turner-Smith) and Slim (Daniel Kaluuya). Having flirted on Tinder for a couple of weeks, they both finally took the plunge to have a first date.
As can so often be the case with a first date, most of the time is spent working each other out. After the meal, Slim offers to drive Queen home, and she accepts.
Just as they continue the process of figuring out if they like each other in the car, they get pulled over by a lone policeman. The situation escalates at an alarming rate, from a simple check of ID into an unnecessary conflict that ends in tragedy. Feeling that they have no other options open to them, the pair flee the scene of the crime.
Struggling to come to terms with what just went down, Queen decides on a place they can head to for safety. Unfortunately for them, they have a lot of road between themselves and their destination, and with video footage of the incident now out there for the world to see, travelling discreetly is no longer an option.
Queen & Slim impresses on a number of fronts. Not only does Melina Matsoukas make an assured directorial debut (having directed numerous music videos and some TV shows previous), but actress and TV writer Lena Waithe provides her first screenplay.
The story itself is a little flaky. There’s a tangible sense of tension in the opening scenes, but this soon gives way to a somewhat loose storyline. Although the couple are deemed to be armed and dangerous, their approach to their road trip is far more casual. It has no urgency about it, and it even includes a few unnecessary stops along the way, despite an alleged countrywide police search for them.
This slackness is forgivable on one count: the chemistry between its two young stars. Brits Turner-Smith and Kaluuya, playing Americans, make an extremely watchable pair. Even when their deeds aren’t exactly believable, their on-going relationship just sells it to you. It could almost be the template for a charming road-trip rom-com if the set-up scenario wasn’t so serious.
The young stars both give a strong account of themselves, with Kaluuya cementing his many rising star accolades, and Turner-Smith continuing her dazzling work in the recent US show Jett.
So you could say it was the Americans that let the side down. Although the template of the road trip certainly works, its execution is a little muddled. If the pair were in a state of danger throughout, then this heightened sense should have been felt throughout. Although the more playful elements are when the film is at its most charming, they don’t feel the perfect marriage for the story as a whole.
Still, the film is worth seeing for the bright and engaging performances of its two young and very talented leads. Oh, and did we mention that they’re British?