Last Sunday, I had Queen and Slim, and found myself so moved I couldn’t bring myself to speak.
It’s a truly masterful film, the cinematography is beautiful, and even with a sad ending the entire journey feels worth it somehow. That’s the thing about writing a story without a happy ending, the journey one the way to the ending must be worth the tragedy.
It takes place within our times, and is about a black man and woman forced to run after a traffic stop goes wrong and one of them kills the cop (in self-defense)–yet because it’s America, neither Slim nor Queen have hope in the justice system clearing their names. Black culture and history and trauma are core themes, and addressed without heavy-handedness.
While driving in silence through the country Slim tries to make small talk, he remarks that the scenery is beautiful. Right then their car passes black prisoners working in a field watched over by a white man on a horse. Then Queen says “is it?” It was bit that lasted no longer than five seconds, yet one of great thematic and emotional significance that hardly needed dialogue.
Moments like these throughout the story help connect the present to a not too distant past–moments like this serve as a visual queue for showing how the present echoes the past. The narrative delibrately casts the couple’s escape as part of a modern day underground railroad–but instead of following the north star to freedom they follow the streetlights.
Queen and Slim never make it to Cuba, and are instead martyred. This movie deserves an entire essay, but I want you to see how the moment of martyrdom is constructed so perfectly. (CW: in the last image Queen and Slim are dead and covered in blood)
He holds her like how Mary holds Jesus in the Pieta–
The camera zooms in, and the plane behind him becomes his cross, upon which his crucified–(like Jesus was executed by men of the law.)
When they both fall and the camera moves overhead so we can see their bodies, the way they have fallen together, and their blood has splattered, turning them into a cross.