An awkward first date between Queen (Jodie Turner-Smith) and Slim (Daniel Kaluuya) turns dangerous when the couple are pulled over by a racist policeman. After the altercation turns violent the pair go on the run, becoming unintended folk heroes on the way.
I watched this film knowing I would not understand the full significance of a number of themes and scenes. So and I urge you to read a variety of reviews from Black critics on this film (and all films). The areas of the film I struggled with may well be due to my limited perspective and I want you to keep that in mind.
It was very well acted, the lighting and framing were quite sumptuous and I was rooting for our protagonists most of the time. With that said, I did have some issues with a number of parts in this film which undermined the otherwise strong themes.
My main issues were with the contradictory choices of our protagonists. Queen’s outlook on life is established through the date. She’s only there because she had a tough day and didn’t want to be alone. She is using Slim for company and is unapologetic about that.
But that scene also establishes that she is an attorney. So when we get to the roadside altercation with a trigger happy racist cop her legal background doesn’t stop her from instigating their escape.
The dashcam recorded the whole incident which could potentially send them to prison. But it would also show the cop shooting an unarmed bystander.
We know that cops who shoot unarmed Black people do not, on the whole, receive any kind of punishment. Would that also mean that they would have still gone to prison for his murder? I don’t know. But as an attorney it seemed strange that she would rather escalate the situation by going on the run than test it in court.
Perhaps she was still reeling over the injustice of her previous client being sentenced to death. But later in the film we learn that she got her uncle off a murder charge so she is a good lawyer. Overall I’m not clear on why she made that choice.
Another strange choice came later when they realised the cops knew they were staying with Queen’s uncle and they had to get out quickly. They throw on clothes and run out. Slim throws on a perfectly fitting tracksuit and Queen raids the wardrobe of one of the women in the house. She puts on a short dress which left the telltale bandage on her leg in plain sight.
Having spent the time sacrificing her hair in order to change her appearance why not put on some of her uncle’s trousers and hide a major clue to her identity?
On the rest of their journey they stopped twice for unnecessary tasks. Once to have a drink in a bar and one to ride on a horse and these actions are of course important to the overall themes of the film.
At the bar they realised they had support from other Black people and would be (mostly) protected by them. And the horse ride was a statement of power, having just established that white people are scared of Black people on horses because they have to look up to them.
But having gone from desperately running, hiding, holding people at gunpoint to aid their escape, it was strange that all that urgency disappeared so suddenly. Now they have plenty of time to spare? Where was the impending danger of the previous scene?
Some of the dialogue seemed rather clunky as well and rather forced in places. I don’t know why they kept referring to the Straits of Florida as “a large body of water”.
The parts I found most gripping were about the ripple effects of their actions and the uprising it sparked. They didn’t intend to start a movement. They didn’t intend to hurt anyone. I really liked the unintended folk hero aspect and the fact that they needed help but didn’t necessarily agree with why they were being helped.
There was real tension when they didn’t know who to trust and where to go. But when they went from running for their lives to suddenly having all the time in the world to spare it broke my belief in them. Do you want to get to Cuba or don’t you?
Hi, I'm Caz. I live in Edinburgh and I watch a lot of films. My reviews focus mainly on women in film - female directors or how women are represented on screen.