Pageants and parents go hand in hand. You see it all the time. Behind every girl competing is a mother bursting with pride or overburdening the girl with expectations. From Drop Dead Gorgeous to Dance Moms, there are many TV shows and movies that depict this.
But none quite like Miss Juneteenth.
Directed by Channing Godfrey Peoples, Miss Juneteenth revolves around Turquoise, a single mother who is struggling to make ends meet for herself and her daughter Kai. Years ago Turquoise won Miss Juneteenth, an annual celebration in her town, and now she wishes Kai to do the same, getting the opportunities that Turquoise let slip through her fingers. However, with a low income and Kai drifting more towards a school dance troupe, Turquoise finds herself questions her motives and the people in their lives.
Miss Juneteenth is a sweet and tender movie that looks at the intricate relationships surround Turquoise’s life. From the over-caring one she imposes on her daughter to the turbulent ones with her ex-husband (Kai’s father, Ronnie,) and her own alcoholic mother. Nicole Behari is absolutely stunning in the (almost) titular role. She gifts Turquoise these multilayers of both ambition and loss ambition. With looks and sighs, Behari manages to convey all the trouble that is brewing underneath Turquoise. It is an exquisite performance, tender and raw but quiet and assuming.
It is, however, Channing Godfrey Peoples’ directing and writing which takes the crown here. This a movie which touches upon American history, slavery, alcoholism, poverty, and single motherhood. Yet it does so in such a nuanced way. It showcases the black characters and actors (who make up the entirety of the cast) as people trying to live their lives through the highs and the lows. It is with this tender and soft direction that the film really shines, crafting emotive scenes that illuminate in the hazy, heated night.
This is most apparent in sequences between Turquoise and Kai (played greatly by Alexis Chikaeze). There’s no massive shouting matches or melodrama yet there is still conflict and compromise and absolutely, above all things, love which is a shining jewel. This movie is predominantly and gloriously about them and the sacrifices we make for our loved ones.
Set in the Texas sun, cinematography Daniel Patterson uses the orange hues and blistering weather to capture this hazy small town vibe. Miss Juneteenth is an exquisite portrayal of dreams and family, no matter how small or big. A wonderful winning movie.
Miss Juneteenth is out 25th September