Film & Television

Movie Review: “A United Kingdom”

Since A United Kingdom is a based on a true story, you can count on seeing real photos of the Khamas at the end. Seretse did indeed bring an elected government to the country that is now Botswana. And, Ruth was a tireless healthcare and human rights advocate for her adopted people. Ian, their son, is the country’s fourth and current president. As you stay in your seat to learn more, you may also find yourself wondering why you never heard the Khamas’ story before. Director Asante recently expressed the same thing.

A United Kingdom is Amma Asante’s third film (her second, Belle) also deals with racism by dramatizing a fascinating true story). Actor and friend David Oyelowo brought the Khamas’ story to her attention. “I was a little bit ashamed,” she admits. “I’m the child of African parents who were raised in a colony. I thought I’d heard most of the stories, but I didn’t know this one.” There was a working script at the time when Asante became involved, based on Susan Williams’ book Colour Bar: The Triumph of Seretse Khama and His Nation. The current film’s script is attributed to Guy Hibbert whose credits include Eye in the Sky.

Appropriately, Oyelowo stars as Seretse and brings to the role the same power and presence we’ve come to expect from this fine young actor, based on his roles in Selma, The Butler, Lincoln, and most recently Queen of Katwe. Here, his work is understated, beautifully balancing the man who loves his wife and the leader who loves his people.

Rosamund Pike, best known in the States for her disappearing act in 2014’s Gone Girl, is equally effective as Ruth. She has less on-screen charisma than her co-star, but it’s appropriate given the disparity between the two characters’ backgrounds. She is an accidental queen and slowly earns the respect of the people of Bechuanaland through steadfast resolution and her humanity. There is solid romantic chemistry between Pike and Oyelowo and it is virtually impossible not to root for them. They don’t seem to see the difference in their skin tone, and neither do we.

It’s interesting to note that there are two movies out right now that involve interracial couples. In addition to A United Kingdom, you’ll find Get Out, the acclaimed feature film debut of writer/director (and actor/comedian) Jordan Peele. Promoted as horror, although in reality a more complex blend of genres, Get Out examines how contemporary liberal whites in our so-called “post-racial” society react when Daddy’s little girl brings home a big black man. The reaction? Suffice it to say, it makes you appreciate Ruth’s father’s prejudiced but civilized response.

A United Kingdom wins on many levels. It’s an absorbing true love story. It’s a well-crafted (and gorgeously filmed) historic piece. And, like Loving, it’s a testament to what Romeo and Juliet knew all along. Love is bigger than family feuds, politics and, in this case, color

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  • Jan March 7, 2017 at 9:48 pm

    Based on this wonderful review, I cannot wait to see the film. Thanks!