‘Queen and Slim’ reviews: ‘An extraordinary Black Odyssey’ from Lena Waithe and Melina Matsoukas

“Queen and Slim” opened November 27. A road movie for the Black Lives Matter era, it follows a pair of accidental outlaws (Jodie Turner-Smith and Daniel Kaluuya) on the run after defending themselves against a crooked cop. It’s the feature-film screenwriting debut for Emmy winner Lena Waithe (“Master of None,” “The Chi”), and the feature directing debut for Grammy winner Melina Matsoukas (Beyonce‘s “Formation,” Rihanna‘s “We Found Love”). So what do critics think of their maiden filmmaking voyage?

The film has a MetaCritic score of 75 as of this writing based on 26 reviews counted so far: 23 positive, 2 mixed, and only 1 outright negative. And it has a Rotten Tomatoes freshness rating of 87% based on 54 reviews, only 7 of which are negative. The RT critics’ consensus sums up those reviews: “Stylish, provocative, and powerful, ‘Queen and Slim’ tells a gripping fugitive story steeped in timely, thoughtful subtext.”

RT classifies reviews only as positive or negative, so its score suggests that the overwhelming majority of critics liked the film to varying degrees. MC scores reviews on a sliding scale of 0-100, which gives a more nuanced measure of critical opinion; it’s somewhat lower score there indicates that while most critics like it, not everyone loves it outright.

Nevertheless, the film is being described as an “extraordinary Black Odyssey,” “a shot heard round the world” full of “melancholy yearning” that makes it “one of the best movies of the year.” It’s a “powerful debut” for Matsoukas, who has been singled out for her “lyrical visual style” and “eye for beauty.” And the performances by Turner-Smith and Kaluuya are “potent with fear, conviction, and adventure.”

Will the film make an impact on awards voters this season? Kaluuya was an Oscar nominee for his leading role in “Get Out” (2017), and this film as a whole has been compared to Barry Jenkins‘s Oscar-winning “Moonlight” (2016) and “If Beale Street Could Talk” (2018). Check out some of the reviews below, and join the discussion on this and more with your fellow movie fans here in our forums.

Robert Daniels (The Playlist): “So opens director Melina Matsoukas’ powerful debut feature ‘Queen and Slim’ — a meditation and celebration of the Black experience, and an at-times searing condemnation of an apathetic white America. ‘Queen and Slim’ is an extraordinary Black Odyssey; a film whose tracks reverberate with echoes of the underground railroad … ‘Queen and Slim’ is the shot heard round the world.”

Inkoo Kang (Slate): “Writer Lena Waithe and first-time feature director Melina Matsoukas … weave the grim fatalism with which Queen and Slim approach the criminal justice system with a romance that alternates between the intimate and the epic. A close cousin of Barry Jenkins’ ‘Moonlight’ and ‘If Beale Street Could Talk’ in their shared love of melancholy yearning, it is, to my mind, easily one of the best movies of the year.”

Joi Childs (IGN): “As a unit, actors Jodie Turner-Smith and Daniel Kaluuya’s chemistry crackles in every frame with a combined performance that’s potent with fear, conviction, and adventure. But examined separately, they deliver something fluid and raw … With these two elements alone, you have enough gas to fuel a powder blue Cadillac-of-a-film. But it’s Melina Matsoukas’ stellar direction that brings the octane.”

Sheri Linden (Hollywood Reporter): “Matsoukas, whose extensive credentials as a video director for pop superstars include Beyoncé’s ‘Formation,’ shapes the uneven material with a lyrical visual style as well as an affecting and judicious use of music … The helmer’s eye for beauty can work against the drama, though, prioritizing the look of the film over persuasive narrative.”

Be sure to make your Oscar nominee predictions today so that Hollywood insiders can see how their films and performers are faring in our odds. You can keep changing your predictions as often as you like until just before nominees are announced on January 13. And join in the fun debate over the 2020 Academy Awards taking place right now with Hollywood insiders in our film forums. Read more Gold Derby entertainment news.

More News from GoldDerby