A United Kingdom Review - Beautiful, Four Stars, A Must See Film

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A United Kingdom, from Pathe and Fox Searchlight Pictures, brings to the screen the true story of Prince Seretse Khama of Botswana and his wife, Ruth Williams, who together took a chance and changed a nation.

Directed by Amma Asante, A United Kingdom stars David Oyelowo, Rosamund Pike, Jack Davenport, Tom Feltin, Laura Carmichael, Terry Pheto, Jessica Oyelowo, Vusi Kunene, Nicholas Lyndhurst, Arnold Oceng, Anastasia Hille, and Abena Ayivor and was written by Guy Hibbert.

We meet, as A United Kingdom opens, Tshekedi Khama, played by Vusi Kunene, the Uncle of Seretse, who is writing to his nephew who is in London attending University, explaining it is time for him to return home to Botswana and to assume his place as the leader of his people. He explains raising him to step into the position his father, the King, once held, and who along with his mother had died, leaving Seretse and his sister, Naledi, played by Terry Pheto, to raise as his own was an honor and now he must return home.

The film moves to London, alive again as the physical memories of the World War II were forgotten. The Missionaries were working in high gear providing spiritual guidance to the many who came to London for education.

Which is where we meet two sisters, Ruth played by Rosamund Pike and Muriel, played by Laura Carmichael, deciding if Ruth would attend the Missionary Dance with her devoted sister. After all they were her friends and so reluctantly Ruth decides to attend.

The dance, more of a social and friendship evangelism, ensured those who were visiting London were exposed to the religious preferences of the British Empire.

On this night, the group of men Seretse Khama, played by David Oyelowo, and others were talking about Africa, an Africa of the future where apartheid and discrimination, where white and blacks were not a people separated by skin color.

As it is said, “people fall in love in mysterious ways” and none more so then the first glances Seretse and Ruth exchanged unbeknownst to each other. Each appeared captured, nearly immediately.

Finally, a moment where the ice was broken as Ruth seemed to be close enough to overhear his comments and as in young love, everything was witty, charming, wonderful, nary a cloud in the sky. And life was delightful, as each met someone unexpected and different. 

The obvious was never an issue between the two. Seretse’s honesty continued to lead the relationship, with truthful emotional expressions, he finally explained his linage, his life, and destiny.

With Botswana looming and his deadline for leaving London nearing he had one unfinished piece of business and with the emotion of a man in love, captured, he in front of God and everyone, on the street, drops to one knee and asks this woman, who without effort changed his life and he hers, and explained without remaining true to himself he couldn’t move forward.

Of course, this is where the obvious, becomes the hurdle, obstacle, and brick wall for everyone. Ruth and Seretse saw only love and strength in each other, in the bonding power of their decision. Tossing caution, and the British Empire, to the wind the two found a Justice of the Peace and married.

Ruth went from office supervisor to the white wife of Botswana’s heir to the throne, and made newspaper headlines around the world.

That of course was simply the tip of the iceberg as the two left London for Africa, where the insidious attitudes and laws of aparthide were taking shape, becoming dividers and separating peoples. Additionally, challenged on every side, the two were greeted with the hate that comes from ignorance, from assigning every person with the same attitudes.

A United Kingdom is another brilliant film from Amma Asente. A follow up to Belle, the 2013 true story of Dido Elizabeth Belle, the mixed race illegitimate daughter of Admiral Sir John Lindsay, A United Kingdom is a truthful account of this bi-racial love story that appeared doomed from the start and has continued even today as the son, Ian Khama, of Ruth and Seretse reigns as President of Botswana today.

David Oyelowo once again captures the commanding presence of a real-life leader. His performance as the rightful leader of a people who need him and whom he loves drives. When needed he is powerful, with a booming voice, and with his wife he drops regal at the door and becomes a man in love.

Rosamund Pike delivers one of her strongest performances as Ruth Williams. She plays a woman far ahead of her time, a woman with courage, unsure of the next step, the footing and ground and only sure of one thing the man she married, would be there.

The fact that this story of a bi-racial royal love affair that actually changed the face and direction of a nation, for now nearly three generations, and still the changes in this land of Botswana.

A United Kingdom shows that remaining true to the dictates of the heart, loyalty to oneself complements and makes the burdens of duty easier to carry. Their legacy, as two impetus love driven young adults, to conquering every difficulty, facing every challenge, and risking all cemented them.

The cinematography is gorgeous, stunning with the beauty of Africa, and the realities of life in a third world country.

The montage of pictures at the end show the real Seretse and Ruth with the two children, its uncanny how much Rosamund and David resemble the two.

A United Kingdom is a powerful testament to love, strength and courage.

A United Kingdom opens February 10, 2017. It is a must-see film.