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Movie Review: A United Kingdom


A United Kingdom is an important biographical romance drama. While the international stir caused by Prince Seretse Khama of Botswana happened in the late 1940s, the familial and societal prejudices exposed at that time still echo today. After meeting Ruth Williams in London, the two fell hopelessly in love and decided to get married against the wishes of their families and governments.

David Oyelowo played Martin Luther King Jr. in Selma and now Prince Seretse Khama, both inspirational political figures in two rousing standalone performances. Instead of riding on the back of a role many thought deserved an Oscar nomination, he's taken the time to cultivate an entirely different energy, carving out a character of great moral resilience with a more passive disposition. He couldn't do it without Rosamund Pike, who was a psychotic force in Gone Girl. She takes on a more grounded and resilient role as Ruth Williams, the personification of grace under fire. The ensemble is further reinforced by a host of solid supporting acts from Jack Davenport, and South Africa's very own Terry Pheto and Vusi Kunene.

Amma Asante directed Belle, another cross-racial historical romance drama, which now makes her something of an authority on mounting taut and handsome period piece romance dramas. While set on location in the United Kingdom and Botswana, the film also has a South African slant as the government of the time tried to exert their influence to intercept the publicised relationship, which was deemed radical and threatening to the Apartheid system.

A United Kingdom

"Near, far, wherever you are..."

We're transported to the life-and-times through old London, which makes a stark contrast with the dusty plains of rural Botswana. These visual polarities create tension as the "Romeo & Juliet" at the heart of this film fight to stay together, weathering the storm of family disapproval, separatist racism and international politics of the day.

Fighting for the love of his life and his country's independence, the romance drama is sweeping, sincere and touching thanks to strong co-lead performances, and elevated to a world platform by solid production values. This informative biographical drama covers much of the behind-the-scenes politics on a macro level and retains the intimacy of the central romance in the details. While these competing objectives keep things fresh, and it remains powerful as a true story, the balancing act does simplify and blunt the overall impact.

Despite a slight distancing, two inspiring speeches book-end this beautifully-realised film, which makes a wonderful tribute to the subjects and a timely reminder of that which unites rather than divides.

The bottom line: Moving