A United Kingdom
Biography / Drama / Romance
A United Kingdom
Biography / Drama / Romance
In the late 1940s, Prince Seretse Khama of Bechuanaland is studying law in Britain in preparation for his eventual ascension to the throne. There, the dashing prince falls in love with a white British clerk, Ruth Williams, and they plan to marry. While they suspect that his uncle, the Regent, would disapprove, nothing prepares them for the diplomatic firestorm and domestic political tumult their defiant love would spark. Now facing a citizenry leery of a white Briton as their Queen, the international opposition is even more unyielding from the British holding their land as a protectorate and fearful of South Africa's racist backlash to this affront to their apartheid domination. Against all odds, King Khama and Ruth must struggle to maintain their love and help their people in a land that would become the Republic of Botswana.
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Savagely under-rated, A United Kingdom is 2016's hidden gem
A United Kingdom is a true and gripping tale which handles it true
historical source material with aplomb. With fantastic performances
from Oyelowo and especially Pike, the central characters plight is
beautifully illustrated. It's not perfect; some of the writing is a
little clunky, but the character chemistry is there, and you leave the
movie theatre feeling like a part of the story.
Quite how this movie receives the rating it does is completely beyond
me. I can only imagine that half the voters didn't in fact see the
Can love triumph over prejudice?
The English film A United Kingdom (2016) was directed by Amma Asante.
It's an interesting love story, based on real events. David Oyelowo
plays Prince Seretse Khama, a young African man studying law in London.
Rosamund Pike plays Ruth Williams, an intelligent, fun-loving civil
servant. They fall in love, and we know that their marriage will be a
difficult one, because of prejudice both in England and in Africa.
What we don't know is that their marriage has implications far beyond
each of them. In 1947, South Africa was gearing up for its apartheid
program. Bechuanaland was a British protectorate, and Seretse Khama was
its rightful prince. However, South Africa borders Bechuanaland, and
the South African government refused to tolerate a mixed race couple in
a neighboring protectorate.
That meant that not only did Seretse and Ruth face prejudice from the
people around them, but they were pawns in an international standoff in
which Great Britain was willing to sacrifice them to appease South
Africa. What happened next became the plot of the movie.
David Oyelowo is a superb actor. So is Rosamund Pike. Ms. Pike has 42
movie credits, but I believe the only other film in which I saw her was
Pride and Prejudice (2005), in which she portrayed Jane Bennet. I
reviewed that movie for IMDb, and wrote that her performance was
Director Asante is skillful, and the acting and cinematography are
wonderful. We saw the movie at the excellent Little Theatre in
Rochester, NY. It won't work quite as well on the small screen, because
the film has some breathtaking scenes of the African desert.
For some reason A United Kingdom has a dismal IMDb rating of 6.7. I
don't understand this--it's much better than that. Find it and judge
Read more IMDb reviews
★★★★ - important story well told
Seretse meets and falls in love with Ruth in 1940s London. All's well
and good except he's the black heir to the throne of Botswana, and
she's the white daughter of a salesman. The true story takes us between
England and Botswana and shows the tension and outcry of the
inhabitants of both nations, and the call for Seretse to stand down or
divorce his new bride.
I knew nothing of this story, but I'm certainly glad I do now! It
starts fairly weakly, there's some rather too in-your-face dialogue at
the start, and the acting of the English extras is appalling - I had
almost lost faith in it. But! One we move past the bog standard racism
you get in these types of movies, and the drama moves to Africa, it all
becomes a lot more powerful. The reaction of Seretse's people when they
discover he married one of their oppressors is nerve-wracking, and his
great "I love my people" speech was incredibly moving. Further
complications with the British government also bring a sense of anger,
disappointment and shame - brilliantly directed by Asante.
Crucially, though, the movie wouldn't have worked without great
performances. Oyelowo is a terrific actor - his accent is flawless and
his reactions to all the various obstacles in the way of him and his
wife are subtle but powerful. I've never been a fan of Pike, but here
she plays the role fantastically. The innocent victim in all this, not
quite knowing what she's getting herself into, and feeling like a fish
out of water, she really does well at being strong but sympathetic. The
two of them together have wonderful chemistry too, you really believe
in their relationship and feel for them in their struggles.
Overall, despite some dodgy writing, A United Kingdom tells an
important story very well, full of emotion and complexity with great
performances. Good job!