Queen of Katwe

Dir: Mira Nair 2hrs 4mins (PG)

The Week Middle East - - Arts -

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”.

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