The most difficult films to write about - no matter if they’re loved or loathed by the reviewer - are the ones that its creators have surrounded or filled with difficulties. For the record, I neither loved nor loathed “Queen & Slim.” It’s a pretty good film. In fact, it’s a darn good one, considering that it comes from a first-time feature writer - the actress Lena Waithe (“Ready Player One”) - and first-time feature director Melina Matsoukas. It has a strong story and some sharp, natural-sounding dialogue, innovative direction, and many examples of superb acting.

Those difficulties include a misstep in advance promotion: Waithe has been suggesting that this is a black film for black audiences, and saying (you can find this on YouTube): “Not one single note by a white person was taken or given. They were aware of the situation when I walked into Universal, which was I would not take any notes from anyone that was not black.” But that statement is absurd. This is not an exclusionary film that’s not for white audiences.

Other problems: It’s too long. But only because there are unnecessary scenes that feel like padding. A brief one involving horseback riding is a prime example. The film would have been in much better shape if it ran just under, rather than just over two hours. Also, there’s nobody in it called Queen or Slim. The names of the two main characters played by newcomer Jodie Turner-Smith and by Daniel Kaluuya (“Get Out”) are never uttered, to each other or by anyone else. So, why is it titled “Queen & Slim?” I don’t know!

Two things the film has going for it are the way it begins, with the establishment of personalities, and how its story gets cooking. The two nameless protagonists are on a first in-person date after meeting on Tinder. It doesn’t go well. My impressions: He’s a low-key guy with a kind soul; she’s an uppity sort, a woman who can’t just say she’s a lawyer, she has to say she’s an excellent lawyer. It’s on their ride to drop her off at home, knowing they’ll never see each other again, that the plot launches. He makes a slight swerve, he misses a turn signal and flashing blue lights approach from behind. The white cop (country star Sturgill Simpson) is impatient, angry, racist, and quick to pull a gun. Amidst panic and confusion from both sides, he’s also soon dead, killed by “Slim” in obvious self-defense.

Which is when “Queen” shouts to “Slim”: “Let’s go! Now!” Which is when this becomes a road movie, with them on the run after the cop’s dash-cam recording goes viral, news networks pick up the story, and they unwillingly become folk heroes, at least to angry black citizens who are fed up with being abused by white cops.

Yet, with the exception of that one bad cop, this never feels like a “hate whitey” movie. The first person they meet on the road, when they run out of gas, is a white sheriff who, not knowing their situation, offers to help them, then does. In short order, their flight, which begins in Ohio and heads south, turns into a series of bad luck events, some of them serious, some quite funny. A stop at the New Orleans home of her Uncle Ernie (Bokeem Woodbine) lightens up the atmosphere considerably, as he’s the film’s most likable and unpredictable character. But that’s only a brief respite, and by the time they’re on the road again, now with at least a hint of a plan, it’s clear that she just wants to keep plowing ahead, but he - look at the worry on his face - doesn’t know what the heck to do.

Time is taken to suggest that they might be falling for each other, which adds some tenderness to their troubled situation, and to meet other people along the road, some of whom absolutely consider them to be heroes (even though they know they’re not). The most effective component of the film is that while the message is about the injustice of racism, it’s thoughtfully delivered rather than overblown. That’s always going to be the best way to get that message across.

Ed Symkus writes about movies for More Content Now. He can be reached at esymkus@rcn.com.

“Queen & Slim”
Written by Lena Waithe; directed by Melina Matsoukas
With Daniel Kaluuya, Jodie Turner-Smith, Bokeem Woodbine
Rated R