‘Queenie’ 2024 Review: A Lukewarm Take On The British-Jamaican Community With A Hint Of ‘Fleabag’

Ever since Phoebe Waller-River’s Fleabag became a sensation, there have been tons of female-oriented stories being experimented with, with women as the leads giving commentary about their lives to the camera. The breaking of the fourth wall has become the norm in basically every show or movie of this genre. The only good thing about such content is that female-driven stories are on the rise. Catherine Called Birdy and The Good House are examples of stories being told from a female perspective. Queenie, however, is something similar that is based on a young girl in her twenties navigating through trauma and life. Based on the novel of the same name, the miniseries was created for Channel 4 and Hulu by the author Candice Carty-Williams.

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Queenie Jenkins is a young social media assistant with a local news website who was in a relationship with Tom, who had begun to have issues with her personality. She also learns that she miscarried even though she didn’t know that she was pregnant. Unable to share this news with Tom, she decides to take a break from the relationship, only to realize Tom might not come back. This is a chance for her to begin casually hooking up with men. Queenie has also had a troubled relationship with her estranged mother, as she was raised by her grandmother, grandfather, and aunt and is good friends with her cousin. Despite coming from a close-knit family and having good friends, Queenie has a lot of childhood trauma that is revealed as the show progresses. Did the casual hookups begin to create havoc in her life? Why was Queenie unwilling to patch up with her mother?

The Fleabag-style nature of breaking the fourth wall has become way too common, especially in female-led stories. Yes, it is essential to learn pointers from modern women’s perspective about the kind of lives they lead, which is far from how the women from our previous generation or the ones before lived. However, in the case of Queenie, the intent is strong, yet there are several things that went wrong in execution. The subject of men not understanding consent has been written and executed most lazily, with zero to no consequences for the person in question. This subplot bothered me the most as a woman because the maker, being a woman, could not accurately convey the horrors women face at the hands of men who are insecure and cannot hear the word no. It was disturbing to watch the subplot unfold and end so abruptly. We were just glad the nightmare was over. Apart from that, it is essential to know that the writer and the director of the show tried to put together issues concerning mental health, women of another generation trying to understand the importance of therapy, female friendships, childhood trauma, emotional abuse, physical abuse, casual relationships, and ghosting. We get that her maker had the heart to bring up these subjects because it is something many of us deal with daily. Yet the half-baked, half-hearted execution of these subjects only made it frustrating. 

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The peek into the British-Jamaican community is the biggest selling point and it allows the audience to understand the culture of a community that moved to the UK in search of a better life and tried hard to hold on to the roots of their culture. There is an emphasis on how black women are stereotyped by the people around them and the expectations heaped upon them with casual racism thrown here and there. Only Candice Carty-Willaims could have done justice to the characters she had written and developed for the book and the subsequent TV show adaptation. The writer-director may have slightly judged Queenie for leading a life that was a little different from what she was used to, which did not make sense. As a woman, I felt there should not be any judgment passed about a young woman who is trying to navigate her way through a personal crisis and a professional one. 

The focus on female friendships and women standing up for each other has been highlighted beautifully. Yet the mother-daughter dynamics are not given enough space to grow, even though that was a crucial part of the show, because Queenie is having troubled relationship patterns. Even though one episode is dedicated to her life as a young girl being raised by a teenage mother, it does not leave any lasting impact on the viewer. It lacked the emotion and depth that are required for us to understand the pain and trauma the young girl faced as a child. However, the direction is lazy in many parts as there are scenes that are plain awkward. Many issues that the lead character in the show raises get resolved very soon, which is weird. There is no time given for the conflict to fester and find a conclusive end. The same could be said about Queenie’s beef with her mother. The years of trauma should have taken time for the young woman to process; instead, the whole subplot about her and her mother is rushed to find a closure. 

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Despite the screenplay having issues, the makers thankfully kept the show tight, and the runtime of each episode is twenty-three to twenty-five minutes, which is enough to convey the story of the young woman. The tight nature of the screenplay allowed it to remain engaging to some extent. The subject matter is such that any writer would have taken the longer-episode route. Thankfully, the shorter the episode, the easier it is for viewers to follow the story, since the writers are dealing it out straight-faced instead of taking the preachy route. The editing by Galina Chakarova keeps the show intact and does not fall apart.

The performances, however, were not up to par. Dionne Brown as Queenie Jenkins is unable to convincingly convey the pain of having gone through childhood trauma; her blank stares and emotionless eyes add to the frustration. The voiceover, as a result, does not leave any impact. The show needed a good female lead. The same could be said about the rest of the cast, especially the actress cast as Queenie’s mother, Sylvia. Ayesha Antoine, as Sylvia, could not put across the pain of the mother who’s made several mistakes and is back in Queenie’s life to apologize and rectify past digressions. The only actor that stood out was Llewella Gideon as Grandma Veronica, who has seen it all in her life in England for many years. Joseph Marcell as Grandpa Wilfred is an excellent addition, especially in the emotional scenes. If you remember, the same actor became popular in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air as the sophisticated British butler working with Will’s rich uncle and aunt. 

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Queenie is a decent attempt to showcase the stories of a community that created a home away from home and is dealing with generational trauma while others from the same community try to break it to process the whole right and wrong aspect of it. Sadly, it ended up being a lukewarm take on the subject matter. 


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Smriti Kannan
Smriti Kannan
Smriti Kannan is a cinema enthusiast, and a part time film blogger. An ex public relations executive, films has been a major part of her life since the day she watched The Godfather – Part 1. If you ask her, cinema is reality. Cinema is an escape route. Cinema is time traveling. Cinema is entertainment. Smriti enjoys reading about cinema, she loves to know about cinema and finding out trivia of films and television shows, and from time to time indulges in fan theories.

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