By Mark Saldana
Rating: 3.5 (Out of 4 Stars)
This week I watched and reviewed two very different stories on race relations and romantic interracial relationships. One is Get Out, a fictional, horror-thriller film with a biting sense of humor. The other is this film, A United Kingdom, which is a straightforward, biographical drama about the real-life romance and relationship between Sir Seretse Khama, prince of the southern African nation/British protectorate Bechuanaland, and British citizen Ruth Williams. Their relationship made international headlines and stirred up controversy within both of their native lands. The political and legal battles they fought to remain together made history, and their victory, a landmark for race relations.
David Oyelowo stars as Seretse, an African leader who studies abroad in London, England during the 1940s, when he meets and falls in love with a sweet and humble office worker named Ruth (Rosamund Pike). The two discretely begin dating on a regular basis with only their closest friends and Ruth’s sister Muriel (Laura Carmichael) in the know. When the time comes for Seretse to return home, he cannot bear to end his relationship with Ruth and proposes marriage to her. The two proceed with a modest wedding, much to the disapproval of Seretse’s Uncle Tshekedi (Vusi Kunene) and Ruth’s father George (Nicholas Lyndhurst). When the Prince returns home with his new wife to reclaim his birthright, white South African politicians conspire with British politicians to separate the newlyweds and exile them from Bechuanaland.
Written by Guy Hibbert (Eye in the Sky) and directed by Amma Asante (Belle), A United Kingdom is a moving and mostly satisfying romantic drama which serves as a history lesson about the racially charged politics of the British and Dutch colonists who imposed systemic racism and segregation between white and black people. The film gives a fascinating glimpse at the pre-apartheid climate of South Africa and its surrounding nations. The movie does have a few melodramatic moments which take away from some of the gravity of the story telling, but thankfully, this doesn’t occur very often. Aside from these few missteps, Hibbert and Asante develop their characters fairly well and present this lovely and compelling story with much heart and sincerity.
The movie can boast some excellent performances by the two lead actors David Oyelowo and Rosamund Pike, who both share a lovely and credible chemistry. The film also stars Terry Pheto who gracefully portrays Seretse’s sister Naledi. A United Kingdom also features solid work by Jack Davenport, Tom Felton, Charlotte Hope, Anastasia Hille, and Jessica Oyelowo. Every cast member performs well in their roles, save for the few melodramatic moments that I mentioned above.
Nevertheless, Guy Hibbert and Amma Asante have made a very pleasing and informative film about the Khamas and their unnecessary struggles to remain happily married. Though not as powerful and heartbreaking as last year’s Loving, or as innovative and crafty as Get Out, A United Kingdom is still an important film the reminds people of the historical struggles of black people in nations besides the United States. What sets this movie apart is the political influence colonist nations had on their African territories, despite granting some of them a certain amount of sovereignty. The filmmakers behind the film do a fine job incorporating these elements, along with the drama, romance, and even some moderately amusing comedy. These positive elements are what make A United Kingdom compelling, resonant and worthy of audiences.