Miss Juneteenth review – the stuff of dreams

A Texas single mother is determined her daughter will win the local pageant to gain a college scholarship in this beautifully observed debut feature

Earlier this year, Philippa Lowthorpe’s socio-comedy Misbehaviour entertainingly addressed the intersection between sexism and racism through the bizarre real-life pageantry of the disrupted 1970 Miss World competition in London. A very different pageant plays out in Fort Worth, Texas, in this impressive debut feature from writer-director Channing Godfrey Peoples. Following a mother’s attempts to pass her own interrupted ambitions on to her teenage daughter, Miss Juneteenth is a beautifully observed and quietly powerful drama that applies its coming-of-age tropes to children, parents and politics alike.

Nicole Beharie, who played Rachel Robinson to Chadwick Boseman’s Jackie in 42, is Turquoise Jones, a former beauty queen (she keeps her crown in a box) juggling shifts at Wayman’s BBQ bar, and at the local funeral parlour. “I will never get over seeing Miss Juneteenth cleaning toilets!” laughs her fluorescent-haired friend and workmate Betty Ray (Liz Mikel). Following an unexpected life turn (the details are implied rather than explained), Turquoise now invests all her energy in ensuring that her headstrong daughter Kai (Alexis Chikaeze) should win the forthcoming Miss Juneteenth competition, and claim the college scholarship to “any historically black institution” that goes with it.

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