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‘Queen & Slim’ is a beautiful black love story that grows from tragedy and trauma

<p>Image from <a href="https://www.imdb.com/title/tt8722346/?ref_=ttmi_tt" target="_self">IMDb</a></p>

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Disclaimer: This review contains spoilers to Queen and Slim.

Upon seeing trailers of the depicted black Bonnie & Clyde movie  set to release in November 2019, I was already on board. I had my  doubts, though. For one, it was a depiction of yet another black  tragedy. So, I knew I would leave that theatre crying, frustrated, and  angry not only because of white society’s impact on us as a culture, but  the never-ending stories that are always a few pages too short. And  although I did leave that theatre crying, frustrated and probably a lot  angrier than I could have imagined, there was power in my tears and love  that I developed for this black couple, mainly because within them, I  saw myself.

Crafted by the minds of Lena Waithe and Melina Matsoukas, this pair  definitely created a rather thrilling and homey story that leaves the  audience asking “What now?” With Waithe’s previous productions (The Chi, Master of None), it was no surprise that this movie would capture the questions of identity and purpose.

Similarly, Matsoukas’ past work with music videos for known celebrities like Beyoncé and Solange, as well as her directing for HBO’s Insecure,  her style fit this movie like no other. In the story of Queen and Slim  (their real names are not released until the very end via broadcast),  two black individuals meet on a last-minute Tinder date, filled with the  unlikeness of a second. With Queen (played by the newly introduced  Jodie Turner-Smith) being standoffish and distracted, she was not  impressed with Slim’s (Get Out’s Daniel Kaluuya) sincerity and  basicness. The date, ending on an awkward note, led to the two ending  their own nights. But not without one of the many climaxes of the movie  hitting the audience first.

Breathtaking cinematography with fashion that spoke for itself

Image from IMDb

After Slim’s tussle with the cop, played by Sturgill Smith, the  wide-angle overhead shot capturing this moment reeled me in. It was a  beautiful, almost overwhelming power that the audience had received; it  was as if we were playing God in their worlds, watching them reach an  inevitable doom, but holding their hands as they rose through it all.  The most notable and euphoric scene, thanks to the cinematographer, Tat  Radcliffe, shows the two protagonists dancing in the midst of a juke  joint, as a country-soul artist strummed his guitar. The camera swirled  around their heads, a slow zoom giving us our first encounter with their  infatuation with one another. As close-ups of hands clapping and  fingers snapping filled the screen, it was the first time we called them  heroes.

Throughout the film, there were many situations where tight shots  made me feel anxious. As Slim gripped the steering wheel of Uncle Earl’s  Catalina and rode off into the dreamy, Louisiana weather, I saw the  worry on their faces. The wide shots made me free and relaxed. When  Queen stuck her head out of the window, the fresh air slapping her face,  I saw extensions of the bright blue water and undisturbed sky. The  audience felt safe, and almost forget that this story was on the basis  of two outlaws on the run for their lives.

From Adidas jumpsuits, knee-length fur coats, and old-school patterns  that screamed 70s disco, Matsoukas showed that the clothing of our  characters was an integral aspect of the film. The snakeskin boots that  Queen threw on after fleeing and her cream turtleneck, along with the  addition of her freshly cropped layer of curls, was not only symbolic to  the tone of this movie, but also to the natural hair community; cutting  her hair was her symbol of being free. It made it feel nostalgic and as  if we were watching some classic hidden on your grandmother’s shelf.  The grainy, Atlanta-y vibe gave the impression that the  timeline of this film was ambiguous, but we were all present. The most  iconic moment for the film, in regard to fashion, was at the funeral of  our beloved protagonists. Uncle Earl, the biggest fashion icon of the  film, sported Gucci sweatsuits patterned with bright gold rings on every  finger throughout the movie but transitioned to a fur-lined black parka  longline coat that was a signature of his personality. Using elements  of Blaxploitation and inspiration from Jamel Shabazz’s “Back in the  Days,” we felt eternally in the moment.

A well-paced journey that keeps you on the edge of your seat

Image from IMDb

On this journey of escaping their town, we find ourselves in the  backseat of their dangerous and downright exhilarating run from Ohio to  the edge of Florida. From bickering and yelling at one another on their  way to Louisiana to becoming vulnerable and open on their trip through  Georgia, we see these two characters evolve and become lovers (whether  it be because of codependency or actually falling in love, we don’t  know). The reality of the situation is that these two entirely different  people would have probably never seen each other’s faces again if not  for this. Whether that be fate is a question you answer yourself, but  the legacy they leave behind is immortal for everyone involved.

Slim’s obedient and simple-minded approach to life changed  dramatically and with Queen’s uptight demeanor long gone, we see these  two characters become free. From dodging an array of different police  officers to hiding under the bed of a white family’s home, we get closer  and closer to the moment where we all just want to put our hands up and  abandon the chase. But each time, there is some larger force that steps  in. Uncle Earl and his “lady friends” help them barely escape; to the  black police officer who just simply let them go. And this most  beautiful thing about this escape is that they had times to laugh and  cry and be brave when they didn’t think they were able to.

Image from IMDb

And as much as the winding road of ups and downs came and went for  our two protagonists, all journeys must come to an end. With our  adrenaline pumping from the moment that these beautiful people finally  get to fly away from their problems, we see the red and blue of  countless police cars swarm in. Our hearts dropped and as many happy  tears we shed during the other scenes, nothing could compare to this  moment. As the bullet went through Queen’s (now revealed as Angela)  heart, I felt my own heart breaking. As Slim (Earnest) picked up her  limp body and walked toward his death, I realized that this story could  not die with them. This love story represented all the black people in  the world who could instantly become convicts. It is a reminder that we  never get to choose if we become paragons or pariahs, dead or alive.  This movie, this experience and this cast of lovers is an infinite  conceptualization of the ability to love when you have nothing left.  This film, although new, feels as if it has been strung along the way  all along, but we just couldn’t see it. Throughout all the violence and  loss and hurt and pain, it has been here the entire time. But now that  we do see it, we can’t let it go. And that makes this story immortal.

Images: IMDb

Featured Image: IMDb

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