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Reel From the Estate

Anthony Thompson

Queen of Glory (2021)

King of Glory is the name of the bookstore Sarah Obeng (Nana Mensah, also the writer-director) unexpectedly inherits when her mother suddenly dies. It’s a Christian bookstore in the Bronx, staffed by Pitt (Meeko Gattuso), a gentle ex-con with such alarming face tattoos everyone new he meets instantly recoils. While Sarah grew up in the store, her adulthood has been spent as a molecular neuro-oncologist, although she’s still a grad student with a heavy academic caseload. But she also has a boyfriend, fellow scientist Lyle (Adam Leon), with whom she plans to relocate to the Midwest, leaving his inconvenient wife and children behind. But the complications of the funeral rites Ghanaian culture requires means Sarah’s new life might have to start moving in another direction.

It begins with the arrival from Accra of her long-estranged father Godwin (Oberon K. A. Adjepong), who settles himself a little too comfortably into the old house where the wake is held. The wake’s only white attendees are the Russian family next door, primarily the very pregnant Tanya (Anya Migdal, also one of the producers) and her teenage daughter Julia (Tarina Milo), in whom Sarah finds an unexpected confidante. But Sarah herself is strangely undefined. She’s hanging everything on the move to the Midwest, without a qualm at leaving behind not only her own career, but also the Ghanaian community which clearly is a cornerstone of her identity. But suddenly she is a scientist selling religious tchotchkes, without metaphor. As she tries to manage her new responsibilities and Godwin’s selfish demands, Lyle’s emotional absence becomes more apparent. But we are not dealing here with a woman who knows what she wants, or how to tell a man she loves “no.”

As Sarah restocks shelves with Pitt or gossips with Tanya at a rowdy dinner table, there’s a huge sense of city life in all its crowded, anarchic splendor, which is Ms. Mensah’s main achievement. But it’s weird the movie goes to such trouble to establish Sarah’s independent identity before abandoning it so thoroughly. This is a movie attuned to the minutiae of making funeral favors instead of the impact of grief and family pressure on a person’s decision making. If grief is the reason for Sarah’s odder choices, then we should have been able to feel it. What’s worse, the money clearly ran out – the movie slams to a halt without closure on its most obvious plot points, such as the baby. In the circumstances and in light of the movie’s good heart, “Queen of Glory” is impossible to dislike, but it’s also fair to say it’s incomplete. Give Ms. Mensah a better budget and more eyes on the script and it’s obvious she’ll get it right next time.


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