Queen of Katwe is a beautiful looking, sensitively made sports film that surmounts the cliches of its genre. The talent of Lupita Nyong’o and David Oyelowo and the beautiful directing delivers a dynamic and bustling film that is a joy to watch, if not completely groundbreaking.
The film tells the story of a young girl from the slums of Uganda who discovers chess through stealing into a chess club run by the kindly Robert Katende (Oyelowo). He soon realises she is incredibly gifted and packs her off to a series of chess competitions. She encounters challenges, but ultimately defies the odds and become a success. I envisioned this film as an exercise in the Disney feel good tearjerker with a suitably family friendly message about overcoming anything. Yet from the opening credits I was introduced to a more complex film.
‘I envisioned this film as an exercise in the Disney feel good tearjerker, yet… I was introduced into a more complex film.’
The setting is beautiful and vibrant without ever shying away from the harsher reality of living in a slum. The environment feels so alien compared to the usual Disney output that it seems less mainstream and engineered. Consequently this ‘based on a true story‘ film actually feels authentic, culminating in a simple yet incredibly moving end credits sequence uniting cinema and reality. The performances are effortless; perfectly blending with the loud, bright soundtrack and bustling setting. Nyong’o steals the show as our heroine Phiona’s mother. Moreover the presentation of chess manages to be engaging even for someone like me who doesn’t particularly understand the game.
‘This ‘based on a true story‘ film actually feels authentic’
At times admittedly the plot became a little monotonous, and the dialogue could slip into overworked cliche. But it is bright and moving in a way that cannot help to please.
While Queen of Katwe was not particularly original or innovative the cast, directing and optimism ensure an engaging watch.
(Image courtesy of Walt Disney productions)