• The Listener
  • North & South
  • Noted
  • RNZ

Queen & Slim has all the ingredients of a cult hit


directed by Melina Matsoukas

Across between Thelma & Louise, True Romance and If Beale Street Could Talk, this beautifully acted and desperately romantic first feature by Melina Matsoukas has all the ingredients of a cult hit.

Making a supremely confident leap from a long career in music videos, Matsoukas directs a largely female crew and a predominantly African-American cast in the engrossing story of a young couple whose first date goes horribly wrong during a random stop and search. These reluctant fugitives – one a no-nonsense defence lawyer, the other a grace-saying, God-trusting teetotaller – go on the run from Ohio across state lines, compelled by the terrible truth that no matter the circumstances of their predicament, the law is unlikely to fall on their side.

As the titular couple, Daniel Kaluuya (Get Out) and Jodie Turner-Smith (in her breakout film role) are sublime to watch as their initially prickly relationship softens into inevitable connection. Their endearing “getting to know you” banter punctuates scenes of high tension, thanks to a superb script by Master of None’s actor-writer Lena Waithe, as they encounter a wild cast of characters en route to freedom. Unexpected cameos from an uptight Chloë Sevigny, Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea and the charismatic Bokeem Woodbine as “Uncle Earl” bring colour to a film that knows how to blast an exuberant soundtrack and when to allow you a chuckle.

But for all its verve and simmering passion, Queen & Slim doesn’t shy away from reminding the audience that simply being black in the US can still be perilous. 



Video: Universal Pictures NZ

This article was first published in the March 28, 2020 issue of the New Zealand Listener.

For more on the political, cultural and literary life of the country, follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and sign up to our weekly newsletter.