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'Queen of Katwe' - film review

October 20, 2016

Queen of Katwe is the latest heart-warming tale to come from the magical machine that is Disney. This time it brings us the inspirational true story of talented teen Phiona Mutesi (Madina Nalwanga), who lives with her widowed mother (Lupita Nyong’o) and siblings in the slums of Katwe, in Uganda’s capital.

 

When taken in by a local youth chess club run by local do-gooder Robert (David Oyelowo), Phiona finds herself unexpectedly thrown into the exciting and stimulating world of competitive chess. Under Robert’s coaching, and with natural skill and fast learning, Phiona soon becomes infatuated by the new world she discovers through chess, and the possibilities it opens up to her for a life beyond the slums of Katwe. As her dreams soon grow from regional to international – including all the glory that goes along with that – so too grows her frustration with the life she was born into. Whoever said ignorance is bliss...

 

Newcomer Nalwanga shines bright as Phiona, but the true powerhouse here is Nyong’o, whose performance as Phiona’s struggling but fiercely-loving mother is as formidable as the character she portrays.

 

A coming of age film about following your dreams, broadening your horizons, and tackling life’s many challenges head on, Queen of Katwe is a truly charming tale, all the more so for the truth that lies behind it. Bonus: it’s full to boot of chuckle-worthy moments and cute characters – especially Phiona’s peers in the chess team, and their unknowingness about quite how to act when visiting one of Kampala’s finest boarding schools for a chess championship. Think city life for rural kids 101... It’s delightful.

 

In short, inspiring, heart-warming and sweet all over. Nice one, Disney – yet again!

 

4 STARS

Lupita Nyong'o stars as Phiona's mother

 

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