Miss Juneteenth (2020) Review – Celebrates Womanhood Subtly


It’s very normal to be ambitious in life, especially in one’s young age. However, when the ambitions of the young collide with their parents, the disappointment on either side is despairing. ‘Miss Juneteenth’ tracks the identical sentimental track of a mother and a daughter, where a mother’s scheme of plan for her daughter is parallel to what her daughter aspires to do in life.

‘Miss Juneteenth’ portrays Turquoise Jones (Nicole Beharie) who was a former beauty queen in her local community. The first time we see her, she sits alone in her bedroom and observe the gown she wore when she won the Miss Juneteenth title.

The next time we see Turquoise, she’s wearing the same shade of yellow —but this time, she is scrubbing the toilet in the divey BBQ joint where she works. That’s the kind of character detail and vivid sense of space we see throughout Channing Godfrey Peoples’ debut feature.

The Story

‘Miss Juneteenth’ is the pageant named for the June 19 holiday: the day in 1865 when Texas slaves learned they were free, two-plus years after the Emancipation Proclamation. This pageant is a competition that happens every year around Texas and is open to girls ages 15-18. The prize to the winner offers a college scholarship. Turquoise had high hopes when she won the title in 2004, but life had certain other plans for her, different from what she dreamt off. Still, she remains a local celebrity, with a hint of scandal. Turquoise wants her daughter, Kai, to fulfill her destiny by competing in the Miss Juneteenth pageant, winning and radiating her own trail to greatness. Though Kai has different aspirations where she uses her time practicing to try out for the school dance team than learning about diction and etiquette. Turquoise grasps for what could have been by pushing Kai toward something she doesn’t want, and while that mother-daughter battle may sound familiar— it ends on a very heart whelming and sweet tone that leaves you with a smile.

Collision of Ambitions

Fiction works better on collision of opposing rationalities. It lays ground to explore dramatic conflicts in a story. When characters, opposes each other, either directly or indirectly, audiences are soaked in the plot, due to relatability of real life and reel life.

‘Miss Juneteenth’ surrounds three women from different generations, the mother, the daughter and the grandmother, who have their own flaws and guilt in life. Each one is trying to rectify the errors of their own parents and give a better life to their children, without bothering to ask what they wish for themselves. But that’s not all the story has to offer, it explores the flaws as well the circumstances that lead to those flaws, perfectly balancing the character and making them so real life.

For example, Turquoise is far from being a shrill, pushy stage mom, who comes from an anxious struggle to survive. She can barely afford to pay electricity bills, yet she saves up hundreds of dollars to buy her daughter, a pageant dress she doesn’t even want. Hence, rather than criticize her for her misguided priorities, we feel sympathy for her. As a single mom, she thinks she is doing what is best for her child and it’s very obvious because every parent does so. People clearly have affection for her characters, not in spite of their flaws but because of them. Similar  instinct extends to Ronnie, Turq’s ex and Kai’s dad, a mechanic who isn’t around as much as he should be, and her mom, a judgmental churchgoer by day and avid drinker by night. 

‘Miss Juneteenth’ celebrates womanhood in an indie film space, picturing an ordinary middle class life that stirs your heart extraordinarily. A light hearted drama centering around women, struggling in their personal and professional lives, not giving up and not settling down. ‘Miss Juneteenth’ acknowledges those women and urges it’s viewers to do the same. I really hope everyone watches the film and experiences the struggles of a woman, beautifully painted by Channing Godfrey Peoples.

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Shikhar Agrawal
Shikhar Agrawal
I am an Onstage Dramatist and a Screenwriter. I have been working in the Indian Film Industry for the past 12 years, writing dialogues for various films and television shows.

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