Just reading the synopsis of the film I was about to see caused me tension.
I’d already subconsciously seen the film to come flash before my eyes.
It was dark, it was unjust, it was a difficult watch and it was Crash (2004). And to be honest it was all those things at times, but it wasn’t Crash, it was a film in its own right, it was different, it was a road trip movie, humorous, powerful and strong. Spoiler – a love story even. It’s True Romance. Without the romance but plenty of love.
Written by Lena Waithe, Directed by Melinda Matsoukas and starring Daniel Kaluuya (Slim) and relative newcomer Jodie Turner-Smith (Queen), the basic premise brings two strangers together – he a retail employee, her a criminal defence lawyer – on a first Tinder date. The date is awkward as hell and it’s of no consequence that both are black. Until it suddenly is when the pair are pulled over on the drive home for a minor traffic infraction which escalates to ‘Queen’ shot, the police officer shot by ‘Slim’ in self defence.
And so ensues the ‘road trip’ to freedom.
At this point, I should point out the purpose of the parentheses round the names. I may be completely wrong on this, but I’m pretty sure we aren’t explicitly told the title characters’ names, they’re simply implied by the title. Again, feel free to rip me apart on this. Regardless, the parentheses are still valid, given that it is only at the end of the film that the audience learns the characters’ ‘real’ names.
In fact, this is true of most characters throughout the film – we don’t often learn their names. They appear stage left at milestones during the course of both the literal and figurative journey of the main characters. Each sweep in, lend their support, then depart stage right.
Almost like a series of little plays which at time feel quite Tarantinoesque – whilst there to propel the journey forward, each set up feels rich – not two dimensional characters with two dimensional lives existing for only as long Queen and Slim are in their presence, but both before and beyond.
The film mostly follows Queen and Slim, with an occasional reminder that their fugitive status has impacted on the real world, as both the weight of the law and media coverage grows. Indeed unsurprisingly for our times, the original crime is caught on video and goes viral – this becomes clear from the little introduction the title characters are required to make to the ‘good samaritans’ they encounter. Recognition becomes immediate.
This bubble effect promotes empathy in the audience – we’re with them, we’re lurching from scenario to scenario with no real knowledge of how much danger is lurking (and how closely).
The film almost takes you by surprise at times with the switch between humour and tragedy, but never feels clunky or like you’re being dealt the shock treatment.
Sympathy lies with the title characters not only from the audience (correct me if I’m wrong – although we may need to talk…) but from those they meet. But it is never laid on thick.
As the film reaches its pinnacle, what began as an apathetic relationship between two people on a sad-looking date, slowly grows into something significant, passionate and important.
Beautiful soundtrack too.
Queens & Slim is on general release from 31 January 2020.
Full cast and production details can be found at IMDB.COM
UK trailer can be found HERE.