Queen of Katwe tells the story of a Ugandan girl who sees her world rapidly change after being introduced to the game of chess.
This is one of those films that makes you smile through the self-discovery the titular character of Phonia undergoes, despite the almost too cheesy Disney-ness that comes with it. The colours of the film are vibrant and it’s hardly a “against all odds” film we’ve seen before, though it does present itself with some of those cliches but doesn’t make it overbearingly so. The film could’ve been aided by the character’s speaking their native local language and could’ve added much to the authenticity of the speech and actions.
The story was till told with heart about a gifted teen guided by her teacher into reaching her full potential. This teacher, played by an ever brilliant David Oyelowo, is filled with kindness and love for his students to do better. He’s a teacher that you wished you had during your school years or even at college or university level.
Although the poverty was a significant backdrop of the film, it hardly took centre stage or pulled Queen of Katwe further into the “victory against all odds” type story. Screenwriter William Wheeler only touched on this briefly at how horrible Phonia’s family’s poverty was but it never full delves into that part of her life — and the story doesn’t call for that. It’s about Phonia discovering who she is as a person in her environment and what she can do about it. In contrast, it was interesting to see Phonia’s reaction after coming home from a Chess tournament in Sudan and her new sense of entitlement. Like much of the rest of the screenplay, it was woven in smoothly and didn’t stand out quite as much as you might’ve thought it would.
The credits are a part of the film that you have to watch and not something you turn off at the final fade to black. It’s quite moving to see the actors and actress of the film standing next to their real life counterparts.
It’s a very warm watchable film that you can guess the outcome from.