By Juliana DiVito
Queen of Katwe
★★★★ out of ★★★★
Disney has yet again knocked it out of the park with Queen of Katwe. Director Mira Nair (Mississippi Masala, Monsoon Wedding), a current Uganda resident, flawlessly delivers the emotional story of Phiona Mutesi (Madina Nalwanga) and her journey to becoming a chess “master.” This heartfelt movie will send you on a ride of emotions, tugging on the very depths of your heartstrings.
Nalwanga’s performance in this film is absolutely phenomenal. The 16-year-old Uganda native brought a great level of authenticity to the screen as she portrayed Phiona and her struggle to become a chess phenomenon. The level of expertise and sentiment she transported to the big screen makes it impossible to believe this is her first outing as an actress.
Nalwanga’s performance is equally matched by the talented David Oyelowo, who portrays Phiona’s coach Robert Katende, and the stunning Lupita Nyong’o who delivers the role of Madina’s mother, Nakku Harriet. Following their respective roles in Selma and 12 Years a Slave, the caliber of passion that these actors brought to the screen was no surprise. Whether you were laughing or crying, there is no doubt their performance ignited the emotions of even the most stoic viewers.
Nair’s decision to film the movie in the slums of Katwe and its neighboring cities in Uganda increased the visual genuineness of the film. The realism presented created an illusion of presence for the audience that allowed you to smell the pungent odor of the unwashed clothes, feel the aches of pain from carrying baskets of corn in the village, and become overwhelmed with anxiety and pressure every time Phiona sat on the opposing end of the chess board.
Queen of Katwe brings the inspiring true-life story of Mutesi to life. The struggles she faced at such a young age will inspire all, even her elders. Her story is undeniably laced with pain and suffering, but Nalwanga’s ability to portray the light that flickers beneath the rough exterior is spectacular.
Queen of Katwe is definitely worth more than a Red Box rental and well worth a trip to the theaters this weekend to catch this life-changing film.
The Good: Please roll out the red carpet, because Nalwanga, Oyelowo, and Nyong’o just delivered Oscar-worthy performances.
The Bad: Although it’s a Disney movie that would inspire all ages, the movie is more appropriate for mature children due to the film’s heavy content.
Final Word: Queen of Katwe has just inducted itself into the Disney Hall-of-Fame. Checkmate!
Starring Madina Nalwanga, David Oyelowo, Lupita Nyong’o, Taryn Kyaze. Directed by Mira Nair.
Running Time: 124 minutes
Rated PG for thematic elements, an accident scene and some suggestive material.