A United Kingdom: Film Review
Cast: David Oyelowo, Rosamund Pike, Jack Davenport, Tom Felton
Director: Amma Asante
The director of Belle returns with another piece that looks at the strife caused by interracial relations in this period piece about King Seretse Khama (Oyelowo), who caused a stir and a division of nations in the late 40s when he fell for - and married - a white woman.
Seretse is a law student, whose life is about to change as his uncle recalls him to take his rightful place as the heir of Bechaunaland (aka Botswana). But within days of departing London, he meets and falls for Rosamund Pike's Ruth.
Determined to marry and despite protestations from their homeland, and British government concerns, the duo's relationship creates divides at home and abroad. As the political storms threaten to engulf the pair and Seretse's land, they find their Apartheid naivete coming to the fore - and hoping their love can save the day.
A United Kingdom is a slice of prime prestige picture, served largely up by BBC Films.
It's centred by an earnestness and two leads who gel (though, arguably, a more stoic Oyelowo is the stronger of the pair) while the political machinations whirl around them.
The film's attention to period detail is beyond stunning and the cinematography early on of London is beyond eye-catching. But for the necessity of the narrative, the England side of events is matter of factly dismissed and dispatched so the action, such as it is, can relocate to Bechauanaland. It's here the film anchors itself and the colonial sneery machinations of Jack Davenport and Tom Felton's characters come to the fore, promising barrier after barrier to this relationship.
Pike, who's initially a bit of a blank sheet of paper, rises in the second half as the compassion for the power of her new people infects her - and an impassioned Oyelowo really raises the bar when the exile of Seretse kicks in.
But while the parts are all there, and the pieces all assembled correctly, there's a distinct lack of anything really making the film soar. Its earnestness is obvious in the way the nicely told story unfolds, but the political drama crushes the emotional edges that should hit harder than they do.
There's a clarity of story to A United Kingdom, and it's a story which is worth expounding on; Oyelowo and Pike remain the reasons to view this tale - but you may feel that it never quite hits the heights it was aiming for and should have fully achieved.