#REVIEW: “A UNITED KINGDOM”
Set amidst apartheid in Bechuanaland (now known as Botswana), A United Kingdom from Director Amma Asante (Belle) centers on the true story of its first President Sir Seretse Khama (David Oyelowo) and First Lady Ruth Williams (Rosamund Pike). The two meet and fall in love in London, although duty calls Seretse to return to his African kingdom where both he and Ruth are faced with great disapproval from its people, his family and the British government towards their relationship, an interracial one. Seretse‘s toughest opponent perhaps is his uncle Tshekedi Khama (Vusi Kenene), whom as the regent of the Bangwatho Kingdom is an ally to the British government, influencing their decision to deem Seretse unfit as a ruler. Subsequently exiled unjustly from his motherland, Seretse is separated from Ruth who stays behind. With the looming possibility of a great mining discovery in the land, Seretse must find it within him to make it back to his wife and Bechuanaland before it and its people are exploited and irreversibly jeopardized.
One part romance, one part political drama, A United Kingdom weighs heavily on the conviction of Oyelowo who is in fine form here, commanding in the quietest moments of despair, yet powerful and eloquent in the public eye. Pike too is fantastic as Ruth, unconditionallly loving and open-hearted. She particularly is great once she finds Ruth‘s voice when urged. She possesses a delicate beauty, but at once is very aware of her place. While it is difficult not to feel the British government is villified, Tom Felton as Rufus Lancaster and Jack Davenport as Alistair Canning deliver memorable work as the stern voice of the British government in South Africa.
We feel that subplots lack needed detail involving Seretse and Ruth‘s winning-over the people of Bechuanaland, Ruth‘s relationship with her own family and also the British government’s motives in making this a task for Seretse. Our protagonists however are engaging enough, giving us much to root for, keeping our investment in the story. We cannot help but feel though that despite several emotionally-poignant moments throughout, the victory in the end feels a tad underwhelming, which is unfortunate.
Fox Searchlight release A UNITED KINGDOM Friday, February 24, 2017.