By: Jessica Goddard
A United Kingdom is a beautifully-made, sincere, and well-acted historical drama. Director Amma Asante (Belle) knows what she’s doing with this story, and hits all the right notes to make this an inspiring and uplifting film that still feels truthful and grounded in reality.
The film tells the true story of the controversial interracial marriage of Prince Seretse Khama of Bechuanaland and British office worker Ruth Williams in 1948. The couple faces opposition from all angles – from the racism in Ruth’s immediate family to the people of Bechuanaland who don’t understand why Seretse insists on making a white woman their queen.
Screenwriter Guy Hibbert does an effective job of balancing persevering idealism with appropriate outrage at the many obstacles put forth by the British Empire. The pacing of this film is exceptional. Just the right amount of time is dedicated to Seretse and Ruth’s courtship, marriage, and relocation to Bechuanaland, efficiently establishing the necessary groundwork for the film to get to the parts of the narrative that are harder to predict. Going in, the audience knows that there will be a controversial marriage, and also assumes that this love will endure. The unexpected twists and turns come in the form of the more detailed historical facts after the marriage takes place, as the British government works to separate and delegitimize the couple for the majority of the film.
Another of this film’s strengths is its excellent lead actors. The chemistry between David Oyelowo and Rosamund Pike is outstanding. A United Kingdom builds up to many uplifting, moving moments that might have been played too melodramatically without such perfectly cast leads. As a result, the viewer really feels for these two people who are so committed to the survival of their marriage that they are prepared to take on (what is almost literally) the world.
A United Kingdom is a great introduction to a thought-provoking footnote in history, and the film is well-executed enough to potentially elevate these events out of that status. As with any good biopic, the telling of this story leaves you with a more comprehensive understanding of the overall time and place the film is set in. Asante’s A United Kingdom works as both a touching tale worth telling and an engaging history lesson.
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Jessica Goddard: @TheJGod