The Movie Waffler New to Prime Video - QUEEN OF GLORY | The Movie Waffler

New to Prime Video - QUEEN OF GLORY

New to Prime Video - QUEEN OF GLORY
When her mother dies, a scientist reconnects with her estranged father and her Ghanian immigrant community.

Review by Benjamin Poole

Directed by: Nana Mensah

Starring: Nana Mensah, Meeko Gattuso, Oberon K.A. Adjepong, Adam Leon, Russell G. Jones, Anya Migdal

queen of glory poster

What an absolute delight of a film is Nana Mensah’s Queen of Glory. The gentle comedy drama, which the filmmaker wrote, directed, stars in, and self-funded via Kickstarter, is a coming of middle-age narrative which focuses on Sarah (Mensah), a Ghanian/American medical post-grad at a crossroads in her life. Sarah is having a long-term affair with a senior lecturer and is waiting on him to inform his wife so she finally can up sticks from the Big Apple and shift off to Ohio with him, where her beau has been offered tenure. Things are promising: even though it is implied that her fella (Lyle, played by Adam Leon) wants to keep the tryst on the downlow with the relationship subsequently limited to apartment based booty calls, Sarah otherwise seems to be thriving in her role in the Ivy League oncology department, she also has strong links with the Ghanian community and extended family, and it even looks as if she has interest in someone buying the flat. As ever, life has other plans though, which become urgently apparent when Sarah, post-illicit shag, receives a phone call advising her that her mom has suddenly died.

queen of glory review

This unwelcome news doesn’t come alone: it falls to Sarah to arrange her mother’s funeral, which, according to Ghanian tradition is a multi-faceted, prolonged, near-festival of an event; along with dealing with the Christian bookshop which her mother used to run in the Bronx. Looks like Ohio, and Sarah’s blossoming career in medicine is going to have to be put on hold for the foreseeable. Instead, we wonder if Sarah is going to learn one or two things about the importance of her roots and the palliative powers of community...

A cute running joke in Queen of Glory involves the increasing incredulity of other characters when Sarah tells them of her plans to move to the Buckeye State. No wonder, as Queen of Glory represents the Bronx in its rude glory, as a vivid and breathing location, which Mensah and DoP Cybel Martin capture with an original eye (that third dimension of a city which is only apparent to people who really know it). A strong conduit of the local flavour which Queen of Glory trades on is Meeko Gattuso’s (Pitt) impressive presence. The actor, recognisable from Euphoria, has had a colourful past himself, which is borne out by the intricate facial tattoos Gattuso sports. Unlike his intimidating role of Mouse in Euphoria however, here Mensah utilises Gattuso’s enormous heart and instinctive chemistry. Which means that Pitt’s diehard loyalty for Sarah’s mother, and his absolute reliance on the bookshop as a place of employment following his incarceration and shady past, is a further complication for Sarah’s plans...

queen of glory review

Post useless Lyle, Pitt is at least a positive and dependable presence in Sarah’s life. It takes a massive suspension of disbelief to accept that Sarah (who is clever, funny, and there is no other way of saying this, utterly beautiful) would knock about with Lyle, a man who wears sneakers with a suit, for the love of Mick. Is it implied that she has low self-esteem? Certainly, she doesn’t seem to have friends who she can share her trauma with, and when her feckless father returns from Ghana for the funeral, she directly falls into the role of carer for him: he is incapable of even finding and operating the television remote control without screaming to his daughter for help.

As the film goes on, the tender and organic manner in which Sarah builds relationships with her new community via the bookshop is genuinely heart-warming and convincing due to the legitimate and funny performances Mensah elicits. The refreshed social context of Sarah challenges her loneliness and gives her a renewed sense of purpose, built on kindness, honour and mutual respect. It is rather satisfying that Sarah’s actualisation is not linked to bagging a man, or, indeed, having children (the film pointedly contrasts Sarah’s life with that of her next-door neighbours’, whose domicile of three kids is a cheerful nightmare).

queen of glory review

That said, I did have issues with the ending of the film, which appear as spoilers henceforth:[SPOILER] All throughout Queen of Glory I was wondering how Sarah was going to square her new responsibilities to her mother’s friends and community with her massively important future career as a cancer researcher, and how she was going to kick her father into touch, and properly move on from that idiot she was seeing: so it was hugely disappointing to see the character turn her back on her entire life to work forever in the bookshop and seemingly take care of her man-child father for the rest of her days, as if falling into the patterns expected of her by cultural tradition (and, yes, Todorovian structures) is a positive thing, and a happy ending. I dunno. I mean, the conclusions we are offered don’t detract from the otherwise soothing wonders of Queen of Glory, but I couldn’t help thinking what a waste. Still, it’s Mensah’s film, not mine [SPOILER ENDS].

It's been a while since we’ve seen an indie with such natural characterisation and absorbing sense of place: nothing seems forced here, or calculated. A warm hug of a film, and a hugely impressive debut feature. Queen of Glory is worth seeking out for its compassion, deft comic subtlety and the potential emergence of a major new talent in Nana Mensah.

Queen of Glory is on Prime Video UK now.