Queen of Katwe
Dir: Mira Nair 2hrs 4mins (PG)
A gripping drama about chess Cynics may not fall for Disney’s latest feel-good drama, but where everyone else is concerned, “prepare to have your heartstrings plucked”, said Cath Clarke in Time Out. Based on a true story, Queen of Katwe is set in a Ugandan slum, where nine-year-old Phiona (Madina Nalwanga) sells corn to help her widowed mother (Lupita Nyong’o) raise a family of five. One day she is lured to try her hand at chess by a charismatic mentor (David Oyelowo) and discovers that she’s a natural. But will she have the self-belief to triumph at the highest level? Hmmm, said Olly Richards in Empire, what do you think? Mira Nair’s sentimental tale offers “every cliché of the ‘poverty prodigy’ genre”, including the clashes with elitist snobs who have the smiles wiped from their faces. Yet the Uganda-based director shows such knowledge of place, and dramatic flair, it’s a pleasure to behold. Nair should be applauded for creating, against the odds, a gripping drama centred on “the most uncinematic” of sports, said Catherine Shoard in The Guardian. And she is ably assisted in this by the “disarming” charm of her young star. The result is a film which brims with “freshness and vivacity”.