A United Kingdom review by Bobby Blakey
I am always a bit concerned with films that focus on racial issues as there is a specific away it needs to be handled to give it the impact it needs. Recently there have been a few that were good films, but just failed to really tug on those situations to effectiveness. The latest, A United Kingdom starring David Oyelowo, Rosamund Pike, Tom Felton, and Jack Davenport, but does it manage to bring this important time in history to the screen effectively or should it have been banished?
A United Kingdom follows Prince Seretse Khama of Bechuanaland in the late 1940s who is studying law in Britain in preparation for his eventual ascension to the throne. There, the dashing prince falls in love with a white British clerk, Ruth Williams, and they plan to marry. While they suspect that his uncle, the Regent, would disapprove, nothing prepares them for the diplomatic firestorm and domestic political tumult their defiant love would spark. Now facing a citizenry leery of a white Briton as their Queen, the international opposition is even more unyielding from the British holding their land as a protectorate and fearful of South Africa's racist backlash to this affront to their apartheid domination. Against all odds, King Khama and Ruth must struggle to maintain their love and help their people in a land that would become the Republic of Botswana. I have to admit that I wasn’t all that interested in this film going in, but glad that I did as it really works well.
The cast all do a great job with Oyelowo and Pike having the great chemistry needed to make this relationship work. The story is so much more than just a race issue of their relationship but the injustices of government’s involvement. I really love the balance between these two topics as it gives the film more depth than it might have had otherwise had they just focused on the relationship alone which most like to do. There are elements that really hit the mark and will no doubt anger people just knowing that this kind of thing happened then and still happens today. I found it all the more interesting seeing not only these polar opposite cultures clashing in the government, but within the family and relationships of the characters.
There are some slower moments here and there, but they felt necessary to make this film work. They have a lot of ground and time to cover for this story, but they handle it well to make it flow and never felt rushed or forced. I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this film, but also enraged by the treatment of the people here. Film should trigger an emotional response of some sort and this film did just that.