Miss Juneteenth: Film Review

Miss Juneteeth

I have not read a bad word about Miss Juneteenth and it currently has a 99% fresh score on Rotten Tomatoes – with a resoundingly positive response like that, it’s no surprise that I loved it too.

Channing Godfrey Peoples‘ directorial debut follows Turquoise ‘Turq’ Jones (Nicole Beharie), a former Miss Juneteenth pageant winner, who signs her daughter Kai (Alexis Chikaeze) up for the 2019 contest, despite her obvious reluctance. Single mum Turq wants a different and better life for her daughter so she scrapes money together to put her in the pageant in the hope she’ll win and receive a college scholarship.

This almost sounds like a shallow competition movie but I can assure you it’s not. The pageant may be the hook of the story, but the film is really about the relationship between Turq and Kai and it follows Turq as she tries to make something of herself after having her dreams derailed by falling pregnant with Kai shortly after winning Miss Juneteenth 2004 and starting college. Turq works two jobs – one running a bar, the other at a funeral parlour – to make ends meet, she is trying to figure out whether she really wants to get back together with Kai’s unreliable father and her estranged husband Ronnie (Kendrick Sampson), and she prioritises paying the pageant costs over energy bills as she puts her daughter’s future above all else.

The well-written screenplay is brought to life by the excellent Beharie. Her performance is commanding and captivating and she has the most emotive face – you can sense how much Turq loves her daughter – and some great facial expressions. Kai doesn’t want to take part in the pageant or perform the Maya Angelou poem her mother read in 2004 and struggles with the pressure of her mother pinning all her hopes on her winning. She’s a 15-year-old so naturally, their relationship isn’t plain sailing – they don’t see eye to eye sometimes – but the love between them is obvious. Beharie is equally matched by a strong performance from Chikaeze.

Miss Juneteenth is delightful gem filled with hope. I highly recommend checking this out.

In selected cinemas from Friday 25th September

Rating: 4/5

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