Based on a powerful true story from the late 1940s, this drama is packed with present-day resonance as it explores a relationship that sparks intense social and political fallout. And it's made properly engaging with central roles beautifully played by David Oyelowo and Rosamund Pike. So it's a shame that the screenplay is so simplistic, failing to generate any momentum in the story with its awkward structure and paper-thin side characters.
It opens in 1947, as Seretse Khama (Oyelowo) has spent 20 years of his life studying in London and is ready to return to Bechuanaland (now Botswana) to take his rightful place as king. But he has fallen in love with white, working-class Englishwoman Ruth (Pike), and they decide to return to Africa together. This causes a crisis for Seretse's uncle Tshkedi (Vusi Kunene), who has been ruling the country while Seretse was away. And there's even more fierce resistance from the British colonial officials (including Jack Davenport and Tom Felton), who refuse to allow the couple to live together in Bechuanaland because a mixed-race marriage undermines the UK's acceptance of South Africa's policy of Apartheid. So they exile Seretse from the country and manipulate the situation to Britain's political benefit. But Ruth stays and fights on.
The film chronicles this astonishing battle with a fascinating attention to detail, although screenwriter Guy Hibbert struggles to avoid repetition as the events shift between Africa and London, leaving main characters off the screen for what turns out to be years at a time. Meanwhile, the British are portrayed as moustache-twirling villains who lie and conspire to undermine the government of Bechuanaland. A bit more complexity might have made the situation compelling on-screen.
Continue reading: A United Kingdom Review
Once upon a time, a handsome, intelligent man fell in love with an equally clever and intelligent woman, the couple married and lived happily ever after. Ruth Williams and Seretse Khama met in Britain in 1947, he was a young man training to be a barrister and she was a clerk working for Lloyds of London.
The pair immediately felt an affinity for one another and courted for a year before Seretse and Ruth married. As well as being an interracial couple, Seretse has a lot more to his past than Ruth ever knew. Seretse is a prince of Bechuanaland and lives a hugely important life in a county that feels a whole world away from the comparatively cosmopolitan London.
Though Ruth and Seretse married - much against the advice of all their peers - apartheid in South Africa, the people of Bechuanaland and the British government all played a part in keeping Sertse from his birth right and went to extreme lengths to have the couple extradited from the country.
Continue: A United Kingdom Trailer
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