Lots of films are out in the UK on Friday, but one is the directorial debut of music video director Melina Matsoukas (think “Formation” by Beyoncé, for a start), called Queen & Slim. It’s had some mixed reviews from African-American critics, so I’m not the one who should best judge it, but it’s good to see more work making it to cinemas by Black American women directors. I’ve done an African-American cinema theme already, but this week is all about the women — many just starting their careers, like Nia DaCosta who directed the film I’m reviewing today — and a lot of their work (as I’ll probably cover this week) tends to make it out only on VoD or streaming platforms, if it gets any kind of release at all in the UK.
A quiet little small town drama of the type that isn’t uncommon (except perhaps in the cinema), but it’s still nice to see big stars like Tessa Thompson help to support this kind of filmmaking. It deals with a small rural community near the Canadian border, and gives a strong sense of what it’s like to eke out a living as a poor and underprivileged person in America, especially with respect to the (lack of) healthcare, which drives Thompson’s character to help smuggle drugs across the border. Nobody really wins here, as they’re all driven by desperation, but there’s compassion for these characters — especially from Thompson’s character, who despite the small-town gangster competition from Luke Kirby’s fellow grifter, is fundamentally doing what she does out of a good heart — and this is a solid little drama.
Director/Writer Nia DaCosta; Cinematographer Matt Mitchell; Starring Tessa Thompson, Lily James, Luke Kirby; Length 105 minutes.
Seen at home (Amazon streaming), London, Saturday 28 December 2019.