Analysis of Queens Gambit

Screenplay Rating:


Executive Summary

The screenplay shows promise with its effective establishment of urgency, mystery, and character relationships. However, there are areas that need improvement, such as smoother transitions between scenes and more engaging dialogue. The missing elements include clearer explanations of character motivations and emotional journeys. Notable points include the use of visual and auditory cues to create tension and the introduction of intriguing conflicts and relationships. Overall, the screenplay has potential but requires further development to fully engage the audience.

  • The scene effectively establishes a sense of urgency and mystery with the knocking on the door and the frantic pounding. (Scene 1)
  • The scene effectively introduces Mrs. Deardorff and Beth, establishing their relationship and the setting of the Methuen Home for Children. (Scene 2)
  • The scene effectively portrays Beth's discomfort and confusion in the cafeteria as she tries to navigate her new environment. (Scene 3)
  • The scene effectively establishes the setting of the Methuen Home for Children and the daily routine of the girls. (Scene 4)
  • The scene effectively establishes the relationship between Jolene and Beth, showing Jolene's experience and influence over Beth. (Scene 5)
Areas of Improvement
  • The transition between the hotel room and the ballroom feels abrupt and could be smoother. (Scene 1)
  • The transition between scenes could be smoother to enhance the flow of the narrative. (Scene 2)
  • The dialogue could be more engaging and dynamic to further develop the characters and their relationships. (Scene 3)
  • The transition between scenes could be smoother to enhance the flow of the narrative. (Scene 4)
  • The transition between the exercise yard and the basement feels abrupt and could be smoother. (Scene 5)
  • A clearer explanation of why Beth is being pursued and why she needs to leave the hotel room. (Scene 1)
  • A clearer establishment of the time period and location could provide a stronger sense of context for the audience. (Scene 2)
  • More exploration of Beth's emotional journey and the impact of her experiences at the Methuen Home for Children. (Scene 3)
  • A clearer understanding of Beth's goals and desires in the scene would help drive the narrative forward. (Scene 4)
  • More exploration of Beth's emotional journey and the impact of her experiences at the Methuen Home for Children. (Scene 5)
  • The introduction of Vasily Borgov and the chessboard in the ballroom creates intrigue and sets up a potential conflict. (Scene 1)
  • The introduction of Jolene adds an intriguing dynamic to the scene and hints at potential conflicts and relationships that may develop later in the story. (Scene 2)
  • The use of visual and auditory cues, such as the knocking, splashing water, and pounding, effectively create a sense of urgency and tension. (Scene 1)
  • The introduction of Mr. Shaibel and the game of chess adds intrigue and foreshadows a potential avenue for Beth's growth and escape from her current situation. (Scene 4)
  • The scene effectively conveys the theme of resilience and determination in the face of adversity. (Scene 6)
Summary Beth Harmon, a young girl who witnesses her mother's death, is placed in a strict foster home where she discovers her love for chess. Despite facing addiction and harsh punishments, Beth showcases her exceptional chess skills and becomes a rising star. However, her addiction continues to spiral out of control, leading to an overdose and eventual confinement to the Girl's Ward where she forms a bond with Jolene and continues to play chess in her mind. Several years later, their routine is interrupted by unknown visitors.

Screenplay Story Analysis

Story Critique The plot of the screenplay revolves around Beth's experiences at the Methuen Home for Children, her interactions with other characters, and her growing interest in chess. The story effectively portrays the oppressive and restrictive environment of the home, as well as Beth's struggle to fit in and find her place. The scenes are well-structured and provide a clear progression of events. The character arcs of Beth and Jolene are well-developed, with Beth initially relying on the pills for comfort and acceptance, but gradually realizing their negative effects, while Jolene serves as a cautionary figure. The introduction of Mr. Shaibel and the introduction of chess add an intriguing element to the story. The use of visual imagery, such as the chess pieces hanging from the ceiling, adds depth to the narrative. However, the repetition of certain scenes and dialogue diminishes the impact of the story. Additionally, the pacing could be improved to maintain the audience's engagement throughout the screenplay.
Suggestions: To improve the plot/story, consider reducing the repetition of scenes and dialogue to maintain a more engaging narrative. Explore ways to enhance the pacing, ensuring that the story consistently holds the audience's attention. Consider introducing more variety in the scenes to provide a broader range of experiences for the characters. Additionally, further develop the character arcs of secondary characters, such as Mrs. Deardorff, to add depth and complexity to the overall story. Finally, consider incorporating more conflict and obstacles for Beth to overcome, which will create a more compelling and dynamic narrative.

Note: This is the overall critique. For scene by scene critique click here

Characters in the screenplay, and their arcs:

Beth Harmon

Beth Harmon is a determined and resilient young girl who has experienced trauma and loss. She is vulnerable but shows resilience and a desire for a better life. Her journey involves finding hope, discovering her passion for chess, and facing her inner demons. She is curious, passionate, and driven to prove herself in a male-dominated world. However, she is also grappling with addiction to medication, which adds complexity to her character.

Mrs. Deardorff

Mrs. Deardorff is a middle-aged woman who dedicates her life to managing the orphanage. She is strict and proper, but also has a caring and nurturing side that she shows to the children. Mrs. Deardorff is a no-nonsense woman who values discipline and rules, but also understands the importance of offering guidance and support to the children in her care. Her strict exterior is a result of her high standards and desire to maintain a respectable reputation for the orphanage.


Jolene is a resilient young woman who has spent much of her life in the foster care system. While her past experiences have hardened her exterior, she remains empathetic and caring towards those around her. Jolene possesses a wisdom beyond her years, having lived through many struggles herself. She is fiercely independent and has a bit of a rebellious streak, but her loyalty to her friends is unwavering. Her tough exterior disguises a deep-seeded fear of abandonment, a fear that she must eventually confront in order to move forward in her life.

Mr. Shaibel

Mr. Shaibel is a gruff but wise mentor figure who introduces Beth to chess and supports her in her journey. Initially skeptical but becomes impressed by her dedication and ability. He is a skilled chess player and guides Beth in developing her chess skills.

Character Arc Critique Suggestions
Beth Harmon Beth's character arc involves her journey of self-discovery through her passion for chess and her struggles with addiction. She begins as a vulnerable girl seeking a sense of belonging and hope, and her love for chess provides her with purpose and solace. However, as she rises to the top of the chess world, her addiction takes hold, leading to a downward spiral. She must face her inner demons, including trauma from her past, and overcome her addiction to find a sense of balance and purpose in her life. While Beth's character arc is compelling and well-developed, some aspects of her journey could have been fleshed out more. For example, her trauma and its impact on her could have been explored further, as it plays a significant role in shaping her character. Additionally, her addiction could have been addressed more thoroughly, as it comes across as a secondary plot point rather than a central aspect of her character development.
To improve Beth's character arc, the screenplay could dive deeper into her trauma and its impact on her. This could further emphasize the complexity of her character and add depth to her struggles with addiction. Additionally, the impact of her rising fame and success on her personal life could be further explored, showing how the pressure of being a chess prodigy affects her mental health.
Mrs. Deardorff Throughout the movie, Mrs. Deardorff's arc shows how her perspective of Beth and her chess playing changes. At first, she discourages Beth from interacting with the local kids and questions her loyalty to the orphanage. However, when Mr. Shaibel shows up to teach Beth chess, Mrs. Deardorff sees the potential in Beth and allows her to continue playing. As Beth becomes more successful and her addiction becomes apparent, Mrs. Deardorff tries to curb her addiction through discipline and punishment. However, in the end, she realizes the importance of nurturing Beth's talent and allows her to pursue her dreams of becoming a chess champion. The character arc for Mrs. Deardorff is well-plotted and shows her transformation from being strictly by-the-book to understanding the nuances of discipline and guidance. However, her arc is not well fleshed out, and her character remains a two-dimensional portrayal of a strict authority figure throughout most of the movie.
To improve Mrs. Deardorff's arc, there should be more scenes that show her interacting with the other characters, particularly Beth. This would give the audience more insight into her motivations and desires. Additionally, there should be moments where Mrs. Deardorff's strict exterior is challenged, either by the other characters or her own feelings of doubt and anxiety. This would make her character more relatable and complex.
Jolene Jolene begins as a supportive friend to Beth, the protagonist. As Beth begins to struggle with addiction, Jolene initially tries to help her but ultimately distances herself out of fear of being dragged down by Beth's problems. However, Jolene eventually realizes that she needs to confront her own fear of abandonment and make amends with Beth. In doing so, she finds a sense of closure and is able to move on from her past experiences in the foster care system. The character arc for Jolene is well thought out and allows for her to grow and change over the course of the film. However, the description of her initially distancing herself from Beth due to fear of being dragged down by her problems feels a bit abrupt. It may be helpful to show more of Jolene's internal struggle before having her make this decision.
To improve the character arc, consider adding in scenes that showcase Jolene's internal conflict and fear of being abandoned. Additionally, it may be helpful to show more of the positive impact that Beth has on Jolene's life before their falling out, so that their reconciliation feels more earned.
Mr. Shaibel Mr. Shaibel starts off as a skeptic, believing that Beth won't amount to much in chess. He is strict in his teaching methods and doesn't show much patience when it comes to correcting her mistakes. However, as Beth shows more and more potential, Mr. Shaibel starts to take her seriously. Over time, he becomes more invested in Beth's success, providing her with advice and encouragement when she needs it. Though still gruff, he becomes a wise mentor figure, recognizing Beth's talent and doing what he can to cultivate it. By the end of the movie, Mr. Shaibel has become one of Beth's most important supporters, helping her to become the chess prodigy she's always dreamed of being. Overall, Mr. Shaibel's character arc is well-done. We see him change from a skeptic to a mentor figure who genuinely cares about Beth's success. However, there are some areas for improvement. For example, we don't get a sense of why Mr. Shaibel is so gruff and aloof in the first place. Exploring his backstory would have added depth to his character. Additionally, while we see Mr. Shaibel become more invested in Beth's success, we don't see much change in his teaching methods. It would have been interesting to see him adapt his techniques to better suit Beth's unique needs.
To improve Mr. Shaibel's character arc, consider adding more backstory to explain why he is so gruff and aloof at the beginning. Additionally, show him adapting his teaching methods to better suit Beth's unique needs. This could add an extra layer of depth to his character while also highlighting Beth's individuality and the challenges she faces as a young girl in a largely male-dominated field.

Theme Theme Details Themee Explanation
Identity and Self-ImageThe screenplay explores Beth's struggle with her identity and self-image as she navigates life in the Methuen Home for Children. She is constantly judged and criticized for her appearance and behavior, which affects her self-esteem and how she sees herself.This theme is important because it drives Beth's actions and decisions throughout the screenplay. It highlights the impact of external influences on one's sense of self and the journey of self-discovery.
Conformity and RebellionThe screenplay explores the tension between conformity and rebellion as Beth tries to fit in and follow the rules of the home while also questioning and resisting certain aspects of her environment, such as the pills and the strict adoption process.This theme is important because it showcases Beth's struggle to find her own voice and make choices that align with her values and desires. It raises questions about the balance between conformity and individuality.
Power and ControlThe screenplay examines the dynamics of power and control within the Methuen Home for Children, particularly through the authority figures like Mrs. Deardorff. Beth experiences the effects of power and control through the pills, the adoption process, and the restrictions placed on her.This theme is important because it highlights the impact of power imbalances on individuals and the ways in which control can be exerted over them. It raises questions about the ethics and consequences of such power dynamics.
Friendship and SupportThe screenplay explores the importance of friendship and support through Beth's relationship with Jolene. Jolene offers advice, warns Beth about the pills, and encourages her to be careful. Their friendship provides a source of comfort and guidance in a challenging environment.This theme is important because it showcases the power of connection and support in overcoming adversity. It emphasizes the role of friendship in providing strength and resilience.
Escape and FreedomThe screenplay touches on the desire for escape and freedom as Beth dreams of staying awake at night to study chess and find solace in the game. It suggests that chess represents a form of escape and a pathway to freedom from the constraints of her current situation.This theme is important because it reflects Beth's longing for a different life and her search for a sense of freedom and autonomy. It raises questions about the role of passion and pursuit of dreams in finding liberation.

Screenwriting Resources on Themes


Site Description
Studio Binder Movie Themes: Examples of Common Themes for Screenwriters
Coverfly Improving your Screenplay's theme
John August Writing from Theme

YouTube Videos

Title Description
Story, Plot, Genre, Theme - Screenwriting Basics Screenwriting basics - beginner video
What is theme Discussion on ways to layer theme into a screenplay.
Thematic Mistakes You're Making in Your Script Common Theme mistakes and Philosophical Conflicts

Goals and Philosophical Conflict
internal Goals The protagonist's internal goals evolve from seeking stability and belonging to a desire for knowledge, validation, and recognition.
External Goals The protagonist's external goals involve navigating her immediate circumstances and challenges, such as fitting in, proving herself, and avoiding punishment.
Philosophical Conflict The overarching philosophical conflict revolves around challenging societal expectations, gender roles, and personal freedom.

Character Development Contribution: The protagonist's evolving internal goals reflect her growth and development as she seeks stability, knowledge, validation, and connection. Through her journey, she learns to overcome challenges, assert her independence, and find her place in the world.

Narrative Structure Contribution: The protagonist's internal and external goals provide a framework for the narrative structure, driving the plot forward and creating tension and conflict. The evolving goals and conflicts shape the protagonist's journey and contribute to the overall narrative arc.

Thematic Depth Contribution: The goals and conflicts in the screenplay explore themes of identity, belonging, gender roles, personal freedom, and the pursuit of knowledge. They add depth and complexity to the story, allowing for exploration of larger philosophical questions and societal expectations.

Screenwriting Resources on Goals and Philosophical Conflict


Site Description
Creative Screenwriting How Important Is A Character’s Goal?
Studio Binder What is Conflict in a Story? A Quick Reminder of the Purpose of Conflict

YouTube Videos

Title Description
How I Build a Story's Philosophical Conflict How do you build philosophical conflict into your story? Where do you start? And how do you develop it into your characters and their external actions. Today I’m going to break this all down and make it fully clear in this episode.
Endings: The Good, the Bad, and the Insanely Great By Michael Arndt: I put this lecture together in 2006, when I started work at Pixar on Toy Story 3. It looks at how to write an "insanely great" ending, using Star Wars, The Graduate, and Little Miss Sunshine as examples. 90 minutes
Tips for Writing Effective Character Goals By Jessica Brody (Save the Cat!): Writing character goals is one of the most important jobs of any novelist. But are your character's goals...mushy?