Queen and Slim is a loving and terrifying glimpse into a few days in the lives of an unlikely African American couple. I completely recommend the film for everyone.
Queen and Slim was written by Lena Waithe based on a story by James Frey and Lena Waithe. Melina Matsoukas directed. Jodie Turner-Smith and Daniel Kaluuya star as Queen and Slim.
The story begins with Queen and Slim on a first date. They are eating. Queen is picky and almost militant about the down-home place, which Slim says he picked because it was black owned. The more prissy Queen gets, the more Slim acts like a pig and a bumpkin.
It’s clear these two aren’t going to have a second date or ever see each other again.
They get pulled over by a white cop as Slim is driving Queen home. That encounter goes as badly as every other such encounter. When it’s over Queen has a bullet wound in her leg and the cop is dead on the pavement. Queen picks up the gun and they take off.
Queen, who is a lawyer, makes the decisions and Slim follows. It’s an interesting dynamic. They decide to run. Queen suggests going to New Orleans where they can hide out at her Uncle Earl’s (Bokeem Woodbine) while they figure things out.
By the time they reach New Orleans, the dash cam video of them and the cop is all over social media. They take back roads from Ohio south. In Kentucky they run out of gas and a sheriff (Benito Martinez) gives them a ride. They put him alive in the trunk of Slim’s car and continue on in the man’s pickup.
In New Orleans, their first stop, they remade themselves. Slim’s beard and hair were cut. Queen’s braids were removed by Uncle Earl’s girl, Goddess (Indya Moore). The new look wouldn’t fool any black people, but it might fool some white people. When a cop showed up asking about noise, Queen and Slim fled in one of Earl’s cars. They decided to head for Florida and then Cuba.
The film was the road trip. They picked back roads – no major highways. They traveled through a black America where they would be safe. At each stop, they found people who knew who they were and who celebrated them as heroes.
They stopped at a dance hall where they were welcomed. They stopped for food and gas and were given help. They found byways where black folks owned the car repair shops.
At the auto repair shop, the mechanic’s teenage son (Jahi Di’Allo Winston) took this photo. It later became a celebrated and much used image for black lives matter.
At each stop, they were told where to go next, with directions written on a small slip of paper. It was an ancient and timeless way of going from safe space to safe space. It was a reminder of the underground railroad. Even the white service buddy Uncle Earl sent them to see – Mr. and Mrs. Shepherd (Flea and Chloë Sevigny) – had hidey holes in their home for travelers like our two.
The fleeing couple opened up with each other. They became less annoying and more human. They fell in love and intended to stick together to the end. Jodie Turner-Smith was wonderful in the part, as was Daniel Kaluuya.
The run for their lives opened both of them up, made them alive. They cherished everything they saw, the music they heard, the horses beside the road, the wind in their faces, the cemetery they visited, each other.
It was inspiring watching every escape, every time the cops were eluded. But it was also terrifying because you knew what was going to happen once the cops got them. This film made it viscerally clear how dangerous and frightening it is to be black in America.
Another film that conveys a similar message is The Hate U Give. Every season of Queen Sugar also tells a similar story. Stories told by black people about black people are so needed. They examine a world not everyone recognizes but needs to know.
Queen and Slim has been out for a while. It’s still on a few theater screens and is available on demand or DVD. I don’t see it on any streaming service yet, but I hope it will be picked up by one.
Here’s the trailer.
Have you seen this powerful film? What was your impression of it? Did you think the ending was inevitable?