A United Kingdom Movie Review
Sometimes it’s best to just trust your friends and family. If they tell you your partner isn’t a good fit, maybe they’re right. They might be trying to save you from years of heartache and stress. And if the British government is literally creating policy to keep you two apart, too, well… shit.
I’m of course not advocating that a black man and a white woman shouldn’t wed. I live in Seattle for fuck’s sake. Two-thirds of my friends are married to people of another race. I’m married to a redhead, which is almost the same thing. But when you watch A United Kingdom and see what Seretse Khama, future king of Botswana, and Ruth Williams, typist and Gone Girl psycho killer, went through, you have to wonder: was undying love really worth it?
The straightforward but enjoyable biopic from Amma Asanta seems to suggest so, as the movie follows the years-long process that Khama went through to become leader of his tribe after the British government exiled him from his own town for marrying a white woman. Talk about a shity situation.
A United Kingdom is a consistently entertaining and interesting drama, albeit one that doesn’t push the bar as far as filmmaking goes. It largely plays it safe and feels like a Disney drama in line with David Oyelowo’s Queen of Katwe--it tells an intriguing story, but rarely tries to be controversial in any way or form. It’s the type of movie you’ll like but won’t rave about.
David “I deserve an Oscar everytime I appear in a movie” Oyelowo delivers another fine performance as Khama. His character isn’t presented as significantly different than his Martin Luther King Jr. turn in Selma--just with a different accent--but boy does he make you want to take up arms for his cause. Rosamund Pike is also solid as his wife, even if she is given less to do as the movie progresses.
The film’s one notable weakness is how Pike’s character is featured throughout the movie. While Asanta largely presents her as an equal to Khama, the movie’s focus on the legal and political entanglements of Khama’s claim to kingship comes at the expense of showing how Ruth adapted to life in Botswana (can you even imagine, especially in the 1940’s, moving from London to Botswana?), and more importantly, how she won the locals over. The film attempts to address this rather fascinating dynamic, but typically through short, surface-level scenes that do little to clarify how her views, and the views of her adopted tribe, evolved over time.
That missing piece aside, A United Kingdom is a satisfying, feel-good drama that highlights a piece of history largely lost to modern audiences. Recommended.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.