A United Kingdom, Amma Asante’s fact-based drama about the controversial marriage between Seretse Khama and Ruth Williams, flirts with Oscar-bait “worthiness”, but on the whole is a solid, absorbing piece of work. Expect nominations for David Oyelowo and Rosamund Pike.
In 1947 London, back clerk Ruth Williams (Pike) met and married Bechuanaland (later Botswana) Prince Seretse Khama (Oyelowo). But this marriage of a white woman to a black man caused a diplomatic crisis involving Bechuanaland, South Africa and the British Empire. Despite immense pressure from all sides to dissolve their union, Seretse and Ruth remained determined, even in the face of South African anger, British betrayal and exile.
This story is one that absolutely should be told, and although it isn’t exactly groundbreaking cinema, Asante holds the film together well. In addition to the afore-mentioned excellent leads, the supporting cast includes Jack Davenport and Tom Felton in suitably caddish Imperialist roles, which is always good value. Guy Hibbert’s screenplay contains a number of outstanding and powerful moments, despite occasional episodic lapses and tearful scenery chewing speeches that may as well be labelled “Oscar nomination clip scene”.
But perhaps I am being too cynical. A certain amount of righteous anger cannot fail to be stirred up in any viewer with an iota of moral fibre. Besides, the lessons of colonialism and racism are still all too bitterly relevant into today’s appalling global political climate.
In short, the positives of A United Kingdom outweigh the flaws, and as such it is certainly recommended.