Queen of Glory
R1 - America - Film Movement
Review written by and copyright: Eric Cotenas (16th November 2022).
The Film

The child of Ghanian immigrants, NYU molecular biology student Sarah Obeng (The King of Staten Island's Nana Mensah) is planning to follow her married boyfriend Lyle (Adam Leon) to his new university administrative post in Ohio. Although she does not feel close to her community leader mother or her father Godwin (The Many Saints of Newark's Oberon K.A. Adjepong) who returned to Ghana after he walked out on them she has yet to tell either of them of her plans. Just as Sarah has found someone to sublease her Manhattan apartment, she receives news that her mother has suddenly passed away. She is immediately thrown into the thick of planning traditional funeral rites with all they entail, contacting all of her lesser-known relatives (who all ask if her mother left a will) and her mother's friends, as well as having to reunite with her father who has already asked for a copy of the death certificate so he can get a bereavement fare waiver.

Her mother's will names Sarah the sole beneficiary not only for her father's house but also for her mother's Bronx Christian bookstore King of Glory. Although Sarah's father raises no objections since his life is Ghana, he quickly begins to ware out his welcome, treating her as much like a daughter as a servant, and nitpicking her choices regarding her mother's funeral without offering to help. Sarah plans to sell the shop and fire her mother's only employee; that is, until she meets Pitt (Meeko Gattuso), an ex-con whose life was turned around by her mother for the betterment of his marriage to ambitious student Ana (St. Vincent's Maria-Christina Oliveras) and their child. Sarah also becomes entangled in the lives of her mother's Ukranian immigrant neighbors Tanya (Anya Migdal), her daughter Alice (Alice Lebedev-Migdal), and her caring but often absent husband Eric (Ian Lassiter). Tanya at first seems to be an ideal confidante for Sarah who has not heard back from Lyle about him asking his wife for a divorce; however, Tanya and Sarah also reveal to Sarah just how much closer they were to her mother than herself. As the funeral nears, Sarah feels a poor substitute for her mother, but filling her mother's shoes may not be what is best for her or anyone else.

Sounding on the surface like a Ghanian-American version of the A24 hit The Farewell, Queen of Glory has warm moments of light comedy and somewhat shallow moments of high emotion. It is actually most effective in between when depicting Sarah's ambivalence about her relationships with her mother, her father, her extended family and friends, but also with her culture; not just of a first generation American child of immigrants who might be secretly ashamed of her love life, but also of stifling her true feelings while being picked at by her mother and relatives for acting "like a white lady" and the cultural chauvinism that allows her father to step back into her life and order her around as if nothing has happened and belittle her despite her professional achievements as still being a child because she has made no progress in starting a family ("I'm the child you deserve," she retorts). Countering these negative feelings is a sense of genuine affection between the characters even if they do come across as ethnic stereotypes devout Africans, loud Europeans, plain-speaking Latinos and the growing realization that Sarah's noncommittal behavior with people is a way of using and throwing them away. The resolution is cute but it does leave some nagging questions. It is nice that she finds her place in the world not a substitute for her mother but as her own person; and yet, does she make the decisions she does in the climax for everyone else or has she found a compromise between keeping her mother's memory alive and living her own life? The directorial debut of actress Mensah, Queen of Glory could have been a silly comedy, but instead tries to explore feelings of familial and cultural estrangement with a degree of complexity.

Video

Digitally-lensed, Queen of Glory looks not only crisp but refreshingly colorful in these days of trendy desaturation, with the progressive, anamorphic 2.40:1 widescreen DVD having a filmic look and no noticeable compression artefacting.

Audio

Audio options include Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0 stereo tracks with only some subtle atmosphere and some room-filling drumming getting the most spread. The bulk of the mix is up front and the dialogue is always cleanly-rendered. A few brief moments of foreign dialogue are subtitled but full English closed captions are also provided.

Extras

Extras start off with an audio commentary by writer/director/actress Nana Mensah, producers Kelley Robins and Jamund Washington, and editor/co-producer Cooper Troxell who discuss the "triggering" autobiographical elements, the use of Mensah's family members including replacing one hired actress references familiar to Ghanian immigrants, and the addition of archival footage. They also discuss the staggered shoot which also lead to the replacement of some actors and locations.

Also quite interesting are a trio of deleted scenes. "Dan and Tanya" (1:55) not only reveals the more static coverage of some scenes early in the shoot but also that Tanya's husband was originally played by a different actor and had a different character name. "KFC" (1:03) is a more superfluous bit involving Sarah's meeting with one of her mother's neighboring store owners, but "Lunch Date" (3:18) turns out not to be straightforward coverage of the scene in the final film that ended up dramatically intercut to convey the heightened emotion and its aftermath but actually an earlier version of the scene also featuring an entirely different actor for Lyle. One is not certain if shooting at a busy location necessitated a lack of coverage or if the version of the scene here is just a master shot that never had other angles cut into it because it was going to be reshot.

The disc also includes the film's theatrical trailer (1:56), a short film "Da Yie" (20:28) by Anthony Nii, as well as some bonus Film Movement trailers.

Packaging

The disc is housed in a clear keepcase and the inside of the cover includes a paragraph about why Film Movement picked the film as well as a second paragraph interview excerpt from director Mensah.

Overall

Queen of Glory could have been a silly comedy, but instead tries to explore feelings of familial and cultural estrangement with a degree of complexity.

 


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