Queen of Katwe (2016) Review: Captivating and Conscious
At the beginning of ‘Queen of Katwe’, my worst fears about the film seemed to have become a reality. This story of a Ugandan girl turned international chess champion had been translated into a watered down feel good Disney movie. One with no real stakes and everything tied up in a happy ending.
However as the movie continues, I realized it was really my highest hopes coming to pass. ‘Queen of Katwe’ definitely has moments of predictability, but shy away from the truly soul shattering content it does not. As Phiona Mutesi hones her impressive skills at chess, she faces the struggle of her day to day life in poverty, hoping one day to escape it. It’s a great escape really.
All of that comes across with first time actress Madina Nalwanga, who plays Phiona. As far as acting debuts go, you could do worse than the starring role in a film with Lupita N’yongo and David Oyelowo. Madina is a part of a cast that despite their huge star power completely immerse you in the film. You understand and feel what their characters are going through, which works for the big emotional moments, and the small light hearted ones. No I’m not crying there was just something in my eye at the theatre.That struggle is palpable in the film. Phiona’s family barely gets by with the turmoil life throws their way. They get caught in bad situation after situation with seemingly no way out. The amount of pressure that puts on a young person is immeasurable. Trying to muster up hope within yourself that you can drastically change your entire life, and the way you live, is probably the most impossible thing she does in this film.
Queen of Katwe’s approach to the story is as educational as it is emotional though, as it provides a snapshot of the struggle of womanhood in Phiona’s home. From the unstable path of Phiona’s sister with a man who takes advantage of her in her youth, to the way her mother considers finding a man to pay for her company just so she can get by. Of all the harsh realities this movie portrays, this was perhaps the most troubling, since it only seemed something that happened so regularly to so many persons.
‘Queen of Katwe’ defied my expectations and is a wonderful film to see with your family, but doesn’t play it safe like so many family films do.
Rating: Big Screen Watch