Film Review: Queen & Slim

Lidia Berhanu, Staff Writer

Queen & Slim made the list of my favorite films of the decade, not only because of the captivating plot, but also the chemistry between the actors; the rawness of the screenplay; the way the actors/actresses portrayed the characters; the incredible cinematography and, of course, the breathtaking score. The movie takes place in a black-owned diner, that Slim regularly goes to for that very reason. Queen is with him on a date; they met on Tinder but don’t really click. Queen only went to dinner because she didn’t want to be alone on that particular night. Later on Slim drives her home and they’re listening to Bilal in the car. The car swerves, and they get pulled over because of a minor traffic violation. The officer makes race-based assumptions, and starts to search the car. Things escalate, Slim shoots the officer in self-defense, and Queen & Slim go on the run. 

I became aware of Melina Matsoukas (the director of the film) through this movie. But I’ve seen her work before, without any idea it was her. Music videos like “Rude Boy” and “We Found Love” by Rihanna, ‘Losing you’ by Solange, as well as Beyoncé’s B’Day Anthology Video Album. I grew up watching videos like this but never knew Matsoukas was behind it, which is a bit surreal to me now that I fell completely in love with her directing the moment I exited the theater.

Devonté Hynes, known as Blood Orange, scored this film, which means he composed music specifically for the film to amplify its aura. Scoring is typically instrumental, which separates it from a soundtrack. The soundtrack was amazing, as well. But Dev Hynes scoring this film, was perfect on so many levels. The 20-track release is mainly orchestral, and angelic. One of my favorite tracks is called, ‘Love’s Theme (Dance)’. The track is played when Slim stops to take Queen dancing, risking getting caught. To their surprise, the juke joint they stop at is a safe place. This is where they both fall in love for the first time, while dancing, as Matsoukas describes. A dialogue is played over the piece, which is a conversation between Slim and Queen. Dev Hynes really outdid himself with that piece, and all the others. When you listen to the tracks, it’s like a guide for your feelings. Especially if you’ve watched it before, the music lets you know what’s taking place, or at least gives you an idea. 

One other particular individual I admire that worked behind the scenes on the making of this film, is Andre D. Wagner. He was a photographer for the film, and shot that legendary, truly classic photo, which is the cover of the film among other stills. A majority of Andre’s work is black and white like the cover photo, and it just contributes to the aura of the film’s concept as well as just how authentic and dope it looks. All of his work is amazing & should be recognized, and I’m beyond grateful he curated his incredible work into existence that not only showcases fine black art & experience through photographs, but also inspires many. 

Another notables includes Lena Waithe’s (scriptwriter) screenplay which, to my interpretation, was definitely amplified by the magnetism between Jodie Turner-Smith (Queen) and Daniel Kaluuya’s (Slim) acting.  Waithe’s moving screenplay had to be personified in a manner that can only be done in a black perspective and, as I mentioned before, the portrayal of the characters really made the film what it was.

One questionable aspect of the making of the film can be found in the casting description. The description for Queen’s character was worded as, “A brown-skinned woman, and if she were a slave she would’ve worked in the fields.” The disturbing articulation was dug up by many people. Is it that difficult for Hollywood to put “dark-skinned” as a description of a character? This definitely isn’t a new thing either, countless situations like this happen when people actually look into productions. The casting director is white, which is no surprise. It isn’t necessary, nor respectful, to articulate characters like this. And even more ridiculous to think that it wouldn’t cause any controversy from black audiences. A lot of people have questioned Lena’s intentions and awareness as the screenwriter of the film to let something like this get past her attention. I wish I could know the details, as well as Lena’s true intentions, but it’s evident I don’t. Dark skinned men & women aren’t often cast as leads in Hollywood especially as lovers, due to colorism, eurocentric beauty standards, and just false inherent aesthetics. So Queen & Slim has definitely shined a positive light in that particular aspect, but in other aspects like I’ve just stated, it just seems like there’s always a catch. 

The film is definitely important to be seen by all audiences, being that it’s a glimpse of the black experience and showcases many different aspects of character and thought in different circumstances, emotions, and encounters. It is a  representation of rich, black love, which is rarely present in motion pictures today. Not to mention that it’s absolutely beautiful. Daniel Kaluuya’s acting was phenomenal. That was no surprise, I among many others recognized his talent since his debut in Get Out. One particularly beautiful thing about the film I want to touch on is Slim’s belief about how his woman is his legacy. He speaks about it in the dialogue they have during ‘Love’s Theme’ which I mentioned earlier. The intensity and depth of Slim’s certainty of his life, is inspiring. How important it is to philosophies and desires today. Slim’s truth does, in fact, reflect other truths whether in the audience or other characters, like Queen. The shot while the dialogue is playing also leaves you completely transfixed. 

 I’m going to end this review with words from 3 other black young individuals, who are friends of mine, who saw the film as well. The questions will reveal thoughts and feelings about the experience of the characters and events of the film. Some of the answers are similar, and some very different, which clearly showcases the variety of perspectives. Nonetheless, they are amazing answers from intelligent youthful minds.  


  • What are some key things you liked about the film?
  • Do you see yourself as Queen or Slim? If so, what parts of either of them do you see in yourself?
  • What was your favorite part of the film?
  • Did you notice that they never said each other’s names throughout the movie? Why do you think that is?
  • What do you think the film captured best? What part really spoke to you?
  • Why do you think the film ended the way it did?

Female, 15

Q1: One of the things that I favored deeply in Queen & Slim, was their second date in the Jazz club bar. The chemistry they held in this scene was deeply intense and the security and safety that the other people gave them intensified their chemistry.

Q2: Queen. I feel I am most connected to her with her ways of expression. In the film she was very assertive & she always followed her actions with passion. Her sense of judgement was always very precise & she always went with her gut instinct even if it meant trouble ahead.

Q3: My absolute favorite moment was probably when the officer let Queen & Slim escape. I felt that there was an instant connection & moment of empathy between the characters once everyone in the particular scene made eye contact. This scene hit deep due to the realization that comes with knowing how hard it is to be black in America, because if the officer would have made an alert to their presence, the movie would lead into a complete different direction. 

Q4: I did, in fact, not notice that until I took time to reflect on the directors POV; I think it was articulately clever to not include the names so the viewers of the film could have the opportunity to see themselves reflected in the character.

Q5: I think the ending hit me the hardest when the man who turned Queen & Slim in was revealed. They captured the view of “it be your own people” very well. Betrayed by your own isn’t really portrayed in black films that much & to see it first hand was very eye opening. It captures the idea of a black man being a victim of capitalism in this country.

Q6: The ending although was very brutal I think they captured the entire concept very well. The detailing with the female cop shooting queen was very articulate. Their very last words exchanged to each other was also very iconic. Everything pieced together so meticulously, which enhanced the love connection that was portrayed in the story. BONNIE & CLYDE. 

Male, 15

Q1: I liked how the film portrays them as criminals because this could happen in the real world. Also the adventure, it takes you on and leaves a lasting impression on you as well.

Q3: My favorite part of the film was when the black cop let them go from the house that they were staying at. It showed that we need to stand together as one and not separate. 

Q5: The film captured best what it is being black in America, it shows the brutality that has been going on for hundreds of years & how it has transformed from slavery but still has not changed. 

Q6: The movie ended the way it did because racism is still a very real thing and it won’t end until we all come together as one no matter your race or background. WE ARE ALL ONE.

Female, 17

Q1: The different types of black folks that were presented in the film. Along with the roles you can personally relate to. Ex; the activist in the family that happens to be the youngest one in the family or the uncle that everyone loves & goes to for guidance. All time favorite has to be the bar scene, it gives props to the creators of country music; black people, while instituting the most magical chemistry known to man; black love!

Q2: Both. Slim saw the importance of supporting his people’s businesses and left that impression on viewers. Queen because entices many by remaining a mystery & only letting some information out.

Q3: This quote : “He told me nothing scares a white man more than seeing a black man on a horse.”

Q4: Just like how chapters in a book take on different titles this chapter in their lives made them take on different titles. Plus, heros always go by names that weren’t given to them at birth.

Q5: The. Sex. Scene. I believe that this part really made Queen & Slim become QUEEN & SLIM. I would feel the sensuousness through the screen. The best part was that you could really tell that this wasn’t based on lust but rather love. 

Q6: Black woman <dark skinned queens> are a threat without even trying. Queen only had a dress on that won’t be able to hide any weapons & she was killed first.  Why? The attack against dark skinned sistas only gets worse. This movie also reminds black people that : ALL SKINFOLK AIN’T KINFOLK…