Based on a true story, A United Kingdom centers on the international stir created when African Prince/soon to be King Seretse Khama (David Oyelowo) of Botswana married Ruth Williams (Rosamund Pike), a white woman from London, in the late 1940s. By marrying Williams, Khama went against hundreds of years of tribal tradition and South African (influential neighbor to Botswana under British rule) and British laws and norms. There many political legal hurdles to jump, as Apartheid was just emerging as the law of the land in neighboring South Africa. This is the story of how Khama and Williams worked and sacrificed to overcome intercontinental prejudice.
This story has great historic value. I had never heard of these people before and it was interesting to learn about them. Their story was unique because there were so many layers to the single issue that one of them was African and the other Caucasian. There was enough prejudice to go around in this movie. The white people were prejudiced against the African. The prince’s own family rejected him and did anything but support him because he married this white woman. The human and political elements of their situation makes the movie really quite riveting and adds a lot of drama and suspense to the story. The way the political interests interfered you would have thought they each had committed bloody murder, rather than gotten married. Thank goodness some things have changed, although we all also know, there is too much that remains the same.
This movie contains many lessons and morals about prejudice, bigotry and hate, judging people by their character, not the color of their skin or their gender or their nationality, etc. The most important thing I enjoyed seeing touched upon in this movie is that loving a person outside of one’s ethnicity does not automatically indicate some lack of self-love or love for one’s “own people.” This man loved his wife, his tribe and his country and he worked extremely hard and made many serious sacrifices to protect and care for all three.
Oyelowo and Pike do a good job here, although I can’t say I felt any real chemistry between them, which is never a good thing when two people are playing husband and wife. I would have to watch it again to confirm this, but that will take a while. I’ve got too many movies to see to do repeats (with the exception of Moonlight which I’ve seen 3 times, and I’ll go see it again. Any time.) There is nothing wrong with any of the acting, or cinematography or costumes, or set design. It’s all fine. But, maybe because the last time I saw Oyelowo he was playing a Ugandan chess coach in Queen of Katwe (Which I enjoyed much more than this movie by the way – not to compare apples and oranges. I’m just saying… Click the link for my review.), combined with seeing the better-known American interracial love story Loving so recently, A United Kingdom just didn’t move me the way I thought it might have.
The movie may have had some problem with directing or writing. It’s hard to nail down which or both because another aspect of this movie I didn’t care for was that Ruth didn’t really have to “do” anything to ingratiate herself to the women of Seretse’s tribe. The women of the tribe accepted her quite easily with the help of her sister-in-law and given a bit of time. I understand the smaller gestures she made were things that the women of the tribe had never experienced with a white woman among them (Like! Wow! This white woman thinks I’m good enough to sit next to! She’s great! – or so I suppose is the sentiment. And I must say, as a black woman in America, this probably makes me feel some kind of way that I am too tired to examine or explain in detail at this very moment. So I won’t.) and so there was something special about those smaller gestures and something significant about those moments; but in a scene where she is helping with a community project that is supposed to be such hard work, you don’t really get the feeling that she’s working very hard or very cooperatively with the women at all because there are many shots where she’s separate from them and she’s got a smile on her face throughout the entire process. It just did not read right or translate well to me. At one point she is shown trying to learn the language, but never speaks it with an African that I saw. Maybe I missed it. So, while she was making gestures to include herself in the tribe, I didn’t see her doing much to embrace them and I didn’t get the feeling that she was working especially hard or having a hard time being embraced. I understand it’s based on a true story and if that’s what the lady did, hey, that’s what the lady did – but I thought her efforts felt lackluster, or the way they were written or depicted made them feel that way. There was no real feeling of conflict or struggle, so I felt no feeling of triumph when she allegedly won over the women. It seemed as if she was just doing things and things were happening. Nothing special.
A United Kingdom earned 7 out of 10 bloops. It’s a good movie worth seeing for the historical content and it made me curious to know more. If not for the historical content I would have given it 6 bloops because I feel like this movie could have been much better. Maybe if I give it some time and watch it again some months from now I’ll think more highly of it. Catch it streaming if you care to. Given the release date timing, the studio probably had a pretty good idea that’s what would happen with it anyway.
1 = worst ever, avoid at all cost
2 = very bad, forget about it!
3 = poor movie, not recommended
4 = not good, even for free – NO!
5 = so-so, worth it if you don’t have to pay
6 = not bad, could have been better
7 = good movie, worth seeing
8 = great movie, don’t miss it!
9 = excellent movie, a must see!
10 = a masterpiece, go see it now!
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