On the cusp of starting a new life in Ohio with her boyfriend, as soon as he leaves his wife, scientist Sarah is left shocked when her mother suddenly dies. Hit with a wave of responsibilities and an inheritance of a Christian bookshop to take care of, Sarah becomes overwhelmed, especially when her father returns from Ghana, causing more issues. On top of all this, she can’t even find a way to grieve her loss.
Nana Mensah is a triple threat; as writer, director and actress she is a talent that is just now emerging with Queen of Glory being her feature film debut. Able to convey the ridiculousness of family obligations even when it’s never been the centre of her world, Mensah finds the humour in some of the more mundane activities and obvious sexism that makes you feel like all you can do is laugh. Mensah also makes her character, Sarah, an outsider by giving her science as her escapism ticket from her home neighbourhood and even, to some extent, her Ghanaian heritage. She is actually a self-made outsider and she wants to distance herself from her family even if she does ferry suitcases of clothes and toiletries to send back to her father back and forth to the Bronx. After all the events and rituals, it is the Christian bookshop that actually connects her to her mother, with the help of her weed baking ex-con employee.
Amongst all the things going on with Sarah, her friendship with bookshop employee Pitt is one of the best parts of the film. At first, she obviously doesn’t feel comfortable despite his laid-back attitude but she soon warms up to him and they get to know each other better. He is a friend to her, wanting to help, he also provides that connection to her mother she didn’t have and he is that positive move in her journey back to what and who she knew and a stepping stone to re-evaluating her life and what she wants to achieve.
Despite the quick fix turnaround at the end and the very obvious beats the story plays out, Queen of Glory is an enjoyable watch. It is a journey through rediscovery which is told in a playful way that doesn’t feel like the grief overshadows anything that happens. The climax of the film is when Sarah finally cries for her mother and it is a celebration and release that she’s needed all along.
Queen of Glory is playing at BFI London Film Festival 6 -17 October