A review of the recent film “A United Kingdom”

This film is based on a fascinating story – both political and romantic – of which I was previously totally unaware. Tne kingdom in question is not Britain today but Bechuanaland (modern day Botswana) in the late 1940s and early 1950s. The unlikely romance was between the black lawyer who is a prince, Seretse Khama played so well by David Oyelowo, and the white, working-class Londoner, Ruth Williams ably portrayed by Rosamund Pike. Against all the odds, they defy opposition to their marriage from both the British colonial authorities and elements of Khama’s tribe led by his uncle who has been regent for so long.

The British establishment – both politicians (including Clement Atlee and Winston Churchill) and civil servants – come out of this narrative as much more concerned with collaborating with apartheid South Africa than with respecting the wishes and interests of the people of the Protectorate of Bechuanaland. But the end titles assure us that the marriage survived and the nation thrived, so this is an uplifting message of endurance and justice.

Much of the film is shot in glorious terrain in Bechuananland and the house occupied by Khama and his bride is the actual property where they lived. For some at least of the creators of this enjoyable work, the project was personal: the director Amma Asante (previously best-known for “Belle”) is both female and black (how often can you say that of a director?) and David Oyelowo is himself married to a white woman (who actually has a small acting role in the film).


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