A United Kingdom
Starring David Oyelowo, Rosamund Pike, Jack Davenport, Tom Felton,
Director Amma Asante continues to deliver important true stories about diverse relationships throughout history. Belle (2011) was a beautiful underappreciated film that functioned as a discovery picture for actress Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Miss Sloane). Asante reunites with Belle co-star Davenport, playing a larger part in this film. It’s the consistently impressive presence of David Oyelowo (Selma) that strengthens the picture. A United Kingdom, about a black man marrying a white woman, is the inverse of the Oscar nominated Loving. The film’s similarities end there, and I suspect Fox Searchlight moved off their 2016 date, as not to be lumped in with the Focus Features film starring Ruth Negga and Joel Edgerton. A United Kingdom is everything Loving is not, bold performances, scenes that appear geared towards an awards campaign and a much larger film in scope.
It was almost love at first sight for Ruth Williams (Pike) an English woman who spots Seretse Khama (Oyelowo) at a party she reluctantly attends with her sister in 1947. The two begin with a dance, and within weeks are married much to her families objection. When she learns he is the a prince, king in training of Botswana, she is even more uncertain of her role in his life. They make a decision to proceed to South Africa, from England, much to both countries equal disapproval. During an unsettled time of apartheid, Seretse’s Uncle, the current King, rejects his nephew’s marriage and creates a pact with the United Kingdom to keep the heir from the throne, despite the wishes of the Botswana people. Seretse and Ruth must fight for their right to be together while a King & Queen fight for their country.
An encouraging part of history that proves once again the usefulness and educational importance of cinema.
“No man is free who is not a master of himself,” Seretse says. He speaks to both his own personal circumstance and his country which has been ensnarled by white foreign hands. It goes without say that the subject matter we see contained here is a hot topic in societies around the world in the current political climate. Amma Asante keeps the focus on the people, much as she did with Belle, and less on the situation. That gives the audience not only a chance to root for love, but to understand what Mr. and Mrs. Khama must have faced during those trying times. “We will take it moment by moment,” Ruth says. “Together”. Some notable irony in this film and Elizabeth (1998) as we see an uncle bound to give up his throne, just like Queen Mary, begging the heir to confirm to their personal convictions.
“The African Queen” the local newspapers call this white woman who enters a country of strangers. The perspective of Ruth is quite a unique one, especially the separated position she finds herself in. Pike (Gone Girl), versatile actress exhibits great strength in her performance. The cinematography by Sam McCurdy takes advantage of the stunning landscapes of Serowe, Botswana, but steers clear the expected shots we know so well from Out of Africa or I Dreamed of Africa. The screenplay spares the audience much of the legal war between the three parties and always keeps the focus on the relationship, reminding us what they are fighting for. It’s an encouraging part of history that proves once again the usefulness and educational importance of cinema.
Another amazing story that was missing from the world of cinema until now, highlighted by two strong performances.