This is a case of a Tinder date gone horribly wrong. And not in the way you are probably thinking of. Uptight lawyer (Jodie Turner-Smith – from television’s True Blood) meets laid back Costco employee (Daniel Kaluuya – Get Out, Black Panther) for dinner at a very casual diner. Right away you can tell that they are very different people looking for different things in life. While the date is not horrible, my money would be put on them not having a second one.
While driving her home Slim is pulled over by a while police officer (Sturgill Simpson – The Dead Don’t Die). Things go from annoying to tense to frightening to deadly very quickly. Now Slim and Queen, who were not even going to have a second date, are bound together on the run from the law.
Without much money or even a plan, they first drive to Queen’s Uncle Earl (Bokeem Woodbine – Spider-man: Homecoming, The Rock) home in New Orleans. Though it is apparent they are not especially close, he gives Queen enough money to get them to Florida and a car. When they get to Florida they are supposed to contact a friend of Earl’s who has a plane and can get them out of the country. Queen and Slim are on a journey for their very lives. One they cannot turn back from.
While fleeing the two discover that what they have done has inspired others. Protests supporting them are occurring across the country making them heroes, of sorts. Second, an attraction starts building between them.
One character calls them the black Bonnie and Clyde. I am not sure that is a flattering or accurate depiction of what is happening here. Queen and Slim did not choose their life of crime. It happened to them because of their skin colour. It is much more disturbing.
Directed by Melina Matsoukas (directed several Beyonce videos as well as episodes of television’s Insecure), the film is a rather moody and grainy one. In tone and look. Though the two main characters are on the run from the law, the film does not have the expected frenetic pace. Their story and characters are given a chance to grow and breathe. Flesh out. Which is not often the case in today’s generally fast and frenetic film world.
What supersedes all of this is the different reality which people of colour have to live. As soon as they are stopped by the white cop you fear for them. Knowing that this is the reality they have to live on a daily basis and it is no longer a rare thing that a black person is shot by police for no reason. The fact that the criminal justice system is not a blind or fair one for a person of colour is rammed home again.
It also explores the subject of what you would do to remain a free person. Once put in the position, which they don’t deserve, Queen and Slim find themselves doing thing they never could have imagined. The instinct to stay free people is strong. And even more than staying free, the two, because of the colour of their skin, know there is little chance that if they are caught they will not be killed.
Even the characters’ names are not spoken until near the end of the film. Names are not really important because they are just supposed to represent two generic members of their community. The African-American community. How they deal with their reality and situation is representative of that community. Not individuals, rather archetypes. We see the fears, hopes and behaviours of an entire people through Queen and Slim.