Queen & Slim is a modern-day love story following the lives of two beautiful dark-skinned black people who are trying their best to navigate the world and survive after an interaction with a police officer. Queen & Slim are portrayed by Jodie Turner-Smith and Daniel Kaluuya, respectively.
The film intricately illustrates the psychologically complex and rich experience of being black in America. Queen & Slim beautifully depicts the idea that we are all connected whether we want to be or not.
Here are some themes that came up for me while I consumed this film:
Universality is a common thread that links us all.
An eerily accurate point of this film is that Queen & Slim could be any of us.
At any moment our lives could be changed due to the decisions that we and the people around us make. Any of us can go from unsuspecting, innocent people on a first date to instant criminals on the run from the law. The characters were so well written in that they were both flawed, well-rounded, and highly relatable individuals who we could either personally relate to or knew someone similar.
The film showcases the beauty of community—and unity.
This film so beautifully depicts the need for connectedness, no matter who makes up your “family.” It also touches on the idea that we cannot always choose our family, but we all can choose where we put our support. Queen and Slim were on a journey to freedom.
They had to learn to trust each other and unite their vision to reach the common goal – survival.
The movie shows support in places that would not always be expected, the need for family support (despite past experiences), and the meaning that people can have on their community at large even when they are not interacting directly with their community.
Queen & Slim traveled through a modern-day underground railroad, and they were at the mercy of anyone who chose to interact with them.
We all want to feel safe. How do we do that while navigating ongoing trauma?
Let’s be honest. Just look at the many headlines and news cycles in this country and think about the numerous stories we have seen and heard about black people being killed at the hands of the police.
There is an underlying theme that we are never safe, not even when we are in the presence of those who have pledged to protect and serve us. Although the interaction with the police officer is brief, the film demonstrates the idea that even if you do everything you’re told to do, even if you are non-threatening, even if you ask questions that you have the right to ask, things can have a fatal (or near-fatal) outcome (i.e Philando Castile, Atatiana Jefferson, Botham Jean and many more).
I remember having “the talk” in my family and community about how to interact with police. We talked about how to be compliant, cooperative—and dare I say—a cheerful person in the hopes that I make it home alive. Many black people I have worked and talked with have vowed to not call the police during emergencies due to the fear of being killed—and I can’t say I blame them for that.
These examples address the respectability politics (often employed for survival) and the common vigilance and weariness of law enforcement that many black people experience in their everyday lives.
Ingenuity in the face of adversity is a large part of the narrative in the black community.
Survival has come in the forms of quick thinking, knowledge of many concepts, intuition, acquisition of resources through relationships, and being able to depend on and trust one another. The behaviors of being cautious, observant, and stoic have been passed down generationally in hopes to increase the chances of “making it.”
Queen & Slim do their best to make meaning amid chaos.
We were able to witness the many stops on Queen & Slim’s journey towards freedom. We saw that even in the midst of chaos, they made room for making memories and meaning.
They stopped at places that had sentimental value for them and helped them become more vulnerable with one another. I felt so strongly about this theme as it often parallels my experience of being Black in America. In between hearing about tragedies, experiencing overt and covert racism, and the chaos of everyday life, I still try to find ways to add meaning in my life through connection and finding things that personally fulfill me.
The film does a wonderful job showcasing the idea that two extremes can exist simultaneously. The audience walks the balance between many opposing views and feelings while still feeling connected to the story.
Queen & Slim built trust through vulnerability and connection.
It is fascinating to think that this film seemingly takes place in a short span of time. Queen & Slim bond through their shared adverse experience and they build trust through glimpses of vulnerability through sharing personal stories, humor, and the knowledge that they need each other to survive.
There is an astounding level of courage employed by these two characters as they manage their own fears, but also make room for each other in their new narrative.
Their lives became intertwined, and even though they could have parted ways, they chose to stand by one another. They stood together not just because they felt they had to, but because they wanted to.
Legacy comes in many forms. For Queen & Slim, it was unexpected.
By no purposeful trying of their own, Queen & Slim became heroes in their community.
Their legacy was shared, and their story lived on in their local community and beyond. No matter how people in their community felt about what they did, many of them still supported them in the moments that support was needed the most. Their drive to survive kept their hope alive.
Their community cemented their legacy even though they were not individually involved in the act that ushered Queen & Slim into legend status.
In many communities, storytelling is an art form that paves the path to immortality. So long as people keep telling our stories, the longer we stay alive in the hearts and minds of others. Legacy outlives us, even though we may never live to see how it impacts future generations.
“All my skin-folk ain’t kinfolk.”
This Zora Neale Hurston quote perfectly embodies one of the most iconic performances in the film.
Sometimes we are saved by the people we do not expect to protect us, and sometimes we are traded for money by those who look like us. The moral of the story is just because we share similar experiences or aesthetics, does not mean that we can assume we all share the same ideals, values, or morals.
Sad, but true.
The film walks the line between Martin and Malcolm.
It seemed like towards the start of the film Slim represented a more peace-seeking person who was trusting of others and expressed faith that justice would work in his favor due to being innocent and human, like some of the ideas presented by Martin Luther King Jr.
On the other hand, Queen seemed to represent a more Malcolm X mentality that emphasized the disillusionment of “the dream” of being treated in a just manner and emphasized that freedom and safety of black people must be taken “by any means necessary.”
The fascinating piece is that these two characters seem to switch ideologies throughout the course of the film.
The film encourages hope as a propellant for change.
One of the largest lessons I took away from this film is that hope is one of the most powerful propellants for change.
Even though they knew they could be caught at any moment, Queen & Slim chose to hope that they could make it to freedom. Even when they didn’t know what their next move was, they had hope. Hope came in the form of spirituality, hope in each other, hope because there were no alternatives, and hope that each connection would deliver on the expectancy to keep them safe and get them to their ultimate destination.
Queen & Slim is begging to be experienced.
Listen to me. This film is an experience. Queen & Slim is an unapologetic ode to being black in America.
I laughed, I wept, I felt infuriated—but most of all I felt seen.
I was emotionally invested in the story because it very well could have been me. I saw characters I grew up seeing and heard music that brought up many memories for me. This was an authentic love story to us, for us, and by us.
Queen & Slim has the potential to be launching pad into many meaningful dialogues about humanity, blackness, police brutality, survival, and what America is ready for.
Lena Waithe, Melina Matsoukas, and all who had a part in the making of this masterpiece thank you for your courage and mission to tell authentic stories.
Go see the film, you will not regret it! If you’ve seen the film already, what are your thoughts on this Queen & Slim review? Let me know in the comments below!