“A United Kingdom” is a true story about England’s colonial power and its relation to African nations in the late 1940’s into the early 1950’s. The movie is based on the book Colour Bar by Susan Williams, which documents the marriage between Sereste Khama (David Oyelowo), a student in London next in line to become the chief of his tribe in Bechuanaland (present day Republic of Botswana), and Ruth Williams (Rosamund Pike), a white English office worker.
Their marriage is a story of disapproval from society during a period segregation and Apartheid in South Africa(which borders Bechuanaland). The film quickly conveys that this union was not only disapproved by the English government’s personal agenda to create a segregated society in Bechuanaland, but also the people of Bechuanaland. Bechuanaland was trying to combat white colonial rule; having a white women as their queen feels like an improper representation and a slap in the face.
Director Amma Asante’s films explore historical figures surrounding interracial identity and love (her first film was “Belle.”) While the movie is primarily about the love and relationship between Seretse and Ruth Khama, it is also about how the English government tried to abuse and profit off of African land. The trailer for the movie makes it appear that this white Englishwoman is able to come to an African nation, become their queen, and in the end be accepted. That felt unrealistic. In reality, it is not until the end of the film that a few people begin to accept Ruth. The film portrays the real resistance towards her, which Ms. Khama had to recognize and acknowledge to actually show she cared and could contribute to the community.
While the writing was strong, especially the dialogue between characters that revealed hidden agendas of English parliament members, and the truth of what Ruth’s marriage to Seretse means for the women of the tribe. The acting is able to display the historical importance without overdoing it, unlike some films based on true stories. The standout in the film, however, is David Oyelowo who gives a powerful performance as Seretse Khama. He plays Seretse by displaying the fragile balance between a composed leader and a frustrated citizen. He allows the viewer to see the complexities that come with being a ruler, and dealing with colonization. Oyelowo also carries the audience along the emotional toll Seretse had to take on pulling him towards his love for his wife and his love for his country, and the difficulty he finds trying to combine the both, while combating the English politics.
“A United Kingdom” shows the appalling English control of African nations and one couples’ unexpected fight against it. During a year full of films about people of color being a part of history that is not recognized, this film continues this theme and reminds viewers that it is important to learn about the historical figures not commonly mentioned in our textbooks. While the film is not a perfect description of the Khama’s story, it encourages viewers to discover more about these hidden figures.
RATING: 4 out of 5