It’s great that movie makers are now turning to layering their mainstream films. So many have political overtones without a deep human level. They enrage an inform while those that move you, stay with you. You can add A United Kingdom to the list.
This film focuses on Seretse Khama (David Oyelowo), an African learning the law in 1947 England, who is destined to be the next King of Bechuanaland (Botswana). He meets and falls for Ruth Williams (Rosamund Pike) a white woman. It’s scandalous enough in racist England, but the political implications for soon-to-be-segregated South Afrika and English control are immense. They could impose their own rule to protect their commercial interests, as there are lots of diamond mines around. And his family and tribes people are also unhappy he’s returned with a white woman.
At the heart of this is a romance. A young couple trying to adjust to a new life in an old land, fighting the resistance from friends, family and foes. Add to this the tearing apart of a country and you have an African Miss Simpson story. It’s ripping story telling, that is rooted in reality.
You can tell this is very close to director Aman Assante‘s heart. The shots of Botswana are brilliant – (pity the rhinos tell me it’s filmed outside of Botswana- they’ve been extinct there for many years) and the close-ups and virtue of our heroes are lovingly handled. The performances are all very good: Oyelowo and Pike are a notch above excellence. The British (Jack Davenport and Tom Felton) are simply racists in suits, but who’d argue that wasn’t true. It gets the emotions going and makes for well-earned tears when a baby is born. Nothing breaks an impasse like a bubbling bub.
I was unaware of the history of Botswana, and A United Kingdom gives me new respect for what they achieved and how they resisted tradition, history and imperialism to reject the tentacles of apartheid. The pictures at the end ram this home. It may not have built a rich, thriving country, but it’s not struggling as much as their southern neighbours.
It’s epic story-telling and any film which leaves you enriched and moved is one worthy of your post-Christmas shopping dollars.
Con’s Score: 4 Lions
Con Nats – Talking Arts