A race-fuelled incident with a police officer ejects a budding couple from normal life and into one of notoriety and symbolism in this “black Bonnie and Clyde” epic.
As first dates go, this was not a successful one for Daniel Kaluuya, (Oscar nominated for Get Out), and Jodie Turner-Smith, (making her first feature lead appearance), after a routine traffic stop turned into a fatal encounter and propelled the couple onto America’s most wanted list.
Melina Matsoukas, known for her award-winning music videos for Rihanna’s “We Found Love” and Beyonce’s “Formation,” makes her directorial debut and coupled with the powerful performances from both Kaluuya and Turner-Smith, created a film that centres an unlikely romance within the very real problem of racial prejudice in modern day America.
The road trip that the pair embarks on in their race to Cuba and sanctuary, was beautifully captured in the cinematography using elegant wide angles and close-up shots from cameras mounted on the back of their car in a bid to immerse viewers within their journey.
Throughout, we see the differing reactions to the actions of Queen and Slim, though their notoriety came in an act of self-defence. The idea that they were setting an example and leading a charge against the discrimination and prejudice that black people face in the States was the stance of the black community, revelling in the fact that they had shot a police officer and the notion of starting a movement.
This was shown by a scene that depicted a violent march that was fuelled by the inspiration that Queen and Slim (unknowingly) gave the community, while the two main characters shared their first intimate moment together in a car far away from the battle. Those in the march idolised the pair and glamorised their actions and this was evident in these two polar opposite scenes running as one, showing the violence and real struggle of the black community against law enforcement and the idealistic scene between the two lovers who were unaware of the brutality that was taking place.
In a counter argument to the two scenes contradicting each other, a sense of empowerment can be felt within both scenarios – two, almost, lovers on the run from the police, sharing one of few intimate moments together, simply because they can. In a sense despite being on the run, they make it seem like they can be caught, but it will be on their terms. They take this time and use it how they like, using their bodies to empower each other. As well as this, those in the march use their voices to empower each other, to try and make a change, based on the liberation they found from Queen and Slim’s actions.
The film has many moments such as this that have the potential to be interpreted in a variety of ways and that is why this film is highly regarded. It depicts a real political issue using a plethora of themes and imagery and the more that you look back on the film, the more that you start to discover and understand.
One factor that is rather upsetting as well as strange is that the two main characters are not named until the end of the film. Their real names are released on a news bulletin at the end of the film for the first time – perhaps a nod towards America’s ignorance towards the black community, signalling that some white policemen in America potentially see the black community as one face, one body, no individualism. It is sad, truly heart breaking when you realise that at the very end of the film that you have only heard their names once, despite watching the pair grow as people and develop their relationship throughout – although a fictional film, it is integral to realise that this sort of thing potentially happens on a daily basis in some parts of the world, with people feeling they aren’t worth an identity because of their race.