Starring Lupita Nyong’o, David Oyelowo and newcomer Madina Nalwanga as Ugandan chess champion Phiona Mutesi, Disney’s latest project is a sweet and heart-warming tale about triumphing against the odds.
Phiona’s life has not been easy, but Queen of Katwe focuses on themes of strength, encouragement and support – and how family can spread beyond your blood relatives. It showcases the determination of Phiona’s mother, the love Phiona has for her brothers, the belief her coach has in his students and, above all, the main character’s fighting spirit.
There’s a warmth to this story, but it’s also a stark insight into a life lived in poverty. Before chess becomes part of her life, Phiona does as she’s told, earns enough money to support the family and never really imagines a life beyond what she has. But when she begins to glimpse a better life that’s just out of her grasp, she starts to feel resentment and confusion, which creates tension between her and her family. How can you be flown out of the country to compete in championships, win trophies and stay in glamorous hotels, and then go back to the life you had before?
Perhaps unsurprisingly given her incredible breakout performance in 12 Years a Slave, Nyong’o is on superb form here as the stern single mother. Oyelowo, too, lends great support with a beautifully restrained but powerful performance as the chess coach. It is Nalwanga, though, who carries the film, and she does so with the grace needed for such a challenging role. The up-and-coming star captures the innocence of Phiona and mixes it beautifully with the fiery spirit she uncovers within herself.
This is gorgeous filmmaking from director Mira Nair, which brings a mix of sincerity, emotion and humour. Queen of Katwe is a joyous, uplifting and powerful story sure to warm the coldest of hearts.
You’ll love this film if you love an uplifting tale.
See this film with friends or family – this is a film to see with your loved ones.
Meet friends or family before the film for some delicious Thai food at Bangkok Lounge Thai Restaurant in nearby East Finchley. The staff are lovely and the food is incredible.
Get in touch with your competitive side with a game or two at Hollywood Bowl.
After the film, head back to East Finchley and grab a drink at The Bald Faced Stag. It’s got old books dotted around on the shelves…see if you can spot another uplifting tale to become immersed in.
Queen of Katwe is out 21 October. Get times and tickets here.