MPAA Rating: PG-13
for some language including racial epithets and a scene of sensuality
Runtime: 111 minutes
Directed by: Amma Assante
Cast: David Oyelowo, Rosamund Pike, Laura Carmichael, Jack Davenport, Tom Felton, Terry Pheto, Jessica Oyelewo, Vusi Kunene
What is better than a true story that seems as though it could never happen? In director Amma Assante’s A United Kingdom, we have the makings of a fairy tale romance, backstage machinations of evil government henchmen, and the sweep of history happening before our eyes.
David Oyelowo, Rosamund Pike
Fox Searchlight Pictures went all the way to London and Botswana in Africa to tell the tale of a Prince who married a commoner. That was not the reason why an international furor was set off by the pair. Mainly it was because Prince Seretse Khama (David Oyelowo) of Bechuanaland was Black and his chosen wife was Ruth Williams (Rosamund Pike), a white secretary from London. Seretse was studying in London when he met Ruth at a Tea Dance, and the two slowly formed a bond that seemed unbreakable. Despite warnings from his uncle back home (actor Vusi Kuene) who raised him, Seretse married Ruth in 1948.
Seretse’s homeland was a British Protectorate and under rule since the 1880s. The King-in-line’s future was now in jeopardy as Britain cracked down during the diplomatic fallout. South Africa to the south was moving into the despicable Apartheid that divided Blacks from Whites. Lawmakers in London were aghast at Seretse’s choice of a Queen, and a white one at that.
British Parliament wasn’t the only body that was appalled by this union, but Ruth’s own father (Nicholas Lyndhurst plays the nasty George Williams) disowned her while sympathetic mom (Anastasia Hille) was torn between the two people she loved.
Civil servant Sir Alistair Canning, played by Jack Davenport with the charm of a hissing Iguana, informs Seretse he has been exiled from his country for his own good and the people of his homeland. Oyelowo grasps this moment with fury from within; his eyes turn red and water with hate and disgust. Davenport is deliciously slimy and obnoxious. It’s a fine performance that makes the screen come alive whenever he appears.
Both attractive leads have a great affinity for each other and a reserved chemistry draws them together. David Oyelowo, 40, has many occasions to show what a good actor he is, despite having to wear three-piece suits in the middle of blazing hot Africa. He demonstrates his passion and love for both his country and his wife. Oyelowo is a much-heralded actor, having more than 25 acting nominations from various organizations.
Unfortunately, Rosamund Pike’s character always seems to be wearing dowdy, flowered housedresses from Woolworth’s. Pike, 38, is a fine actress and demonstrated she can singe you with her inner fire as she did in Ben Affleck’s psychological thriller Gone Girl, for which she was nominated for an Academy Award as Best Actress. In this film, she is more reserved, as a Queen should be, to appeal to her new fellow citizens in the land that will one day become Botswana.
Technical credits are good, with Production Designer Simon Bowles and cinematographer Sam McCurdy artfully capturing the foggy beauty of London and the sunny natural charms of rural Africa.History buffs may be astonished at the events that occurred that are not well-known today. It is all a part of Africa’s and Botswana’s growing pains that make for a fascinating story.