Queen of Katwe (2016)
Starring Madina Nalwanga, David Oyelowo, and Lupita Nyong'o
Directed by Mira Nair
***This film is currently streaming on Netflix***
Thus is the true story of Queen of Katwe -- a well-acted, well-directed, and modest little film that weaves a tale that feels familiar, yet foreign. The foreignness stems from this taking place in Uganda, a place where admittedly us Westerners are innately unfamiliar. Director Mira Nair uses the Ugandan landscape to help fully develop her characters in ways that aren't all that common in a PG-rated film about sports. And yet it's that commonality of being a "sports film" that weighs down Queen of Katwe and doesn't allow it to really expand into something breathtaking or stunning.
Although it's unable to escape the clichés inherent in its genre, there are some great performances that more than lift Queen of Katwe into something that's worth a look. As the adults in the piece, David Oyelowo and Lupita Nyong'o provide solid anchors for the cast of completely unknown young actors to play off. Front and center through it all is Madina Nalwanga as Phiona who more than captures the struggles facing poor Ugandan youth and the joy that triumphing against adversity can bring. It's the performances here that make this film better than its average script allows. Nair's film could've used a few more edits -- it slogs a bit in the middle with some repetitive moments that really don't add to the characters who were well-established in the first act -- but Queen of Katwe still works for the most part.
The RyMickey Rating: B-