Friday, February 24

REVIEW: A United Kingdom

Directed by Amma Asante
2017 Biographical Romance Drama
1 hour 51 minutes
From Fox Searchlight

David Oyelowo
Rosamund Pike
Jack Davenport
Tom Felton
Terry Pheton
Laura Carmichael
Vusi Kunene
Jessica Oyelowo

Based on a true story from the late 1940s, Prince Seretse Khama of Bechuanaland (today Botswana) becomes embroiled in an international scandal when he marries a white woman from Britain. His uncle, ready to turn over the reins to the country and make his nephew king, is against the marriage.  His people are against it and her family, except for her sister, is against it. Additionally the South African government is adamantly opposed as is the British government, which does all it can to undermine the couple and also the prince's prospects of ruling his own nation.

Khama and Ruth Williams meet in London where he is completing some studies before returning home.  Their attraction is immediate and they fall madly in love.  He does not tell her at first of his royal lineage but does so at the time of telling her he wants to marry her. Neither is ignorant of the problems they will have but she is surprised to hear that he will not return to rule unless she is with him.  She is more than pleased to join him in his African village.

Her father has said he wants nothing more to do with her and when the couple arrives in the village, his uncle is adamant that either they divorce or his nephew gives up the throne.  He will do neither but gives the choice to his people to make and they a bit reluctantly decide to go with him despite his white bride.  

The first part, in London when they meet and fall in love, feels a bit rushed.  I recognize how much the two were in love and willing to defy the odds but I could have gone for two or three more scenes to have that played out.  At the same time, once they do go to Africa, the film is nicely paced as we get into the political intrigue which has a much to do with the Brits not letting go of their control over the country and the discovery of diamonds.  Forces are at work, of course, to make sure that one of the uncle's two options come to fruition. 

Great attention was paid to production design.  The period flavor, clothes, hairstyles, home furnishings, cars, were splendid. Actually, the look of this film is one of its best attributes.

There is no way I could fault the cast either. David Oyelowo is one of those actors I keep my eye on and he is the main reason I wanted to see this one.  Rosamund Pike (you remember her as the title character in Gone Girl) is equally wonderful and together they have terrific chemistry.  They both appeared together in 2012s Jack Reacher.

I haven't seen Davenport in awhile and he and Felton, both cagey antagonists who oppose African autonomy, were so much fun to boo, although like so many based on true stories, their characters are made up. Interesting, too, that Davenport's wife, Jessica Oyelowo, is David's real-life spouse.

It's a quiet revolution, more concerned about true love than the political mess.  I thought the nicest thing is that someone even found this story. One wonders why it took so long to tell bring it to the screen.  On the other hand, there may be some criticism that there could have been more of a cinematic sweep, a bit more grandeur perhaps, and I dare say it may be a little too bland for some tastes.

I commend director Asante for her nuanced approach to the story. She's still a relatively new director.  Her Belle caused some ripples four years ago.

As with most films that deal with real people, we get to see the actual people through the end credits and hear more about them and what happened to them outside the scope of the film.  Khama and Ruth's grandson rules Botswana today.

If there were such things as double-bill features, this would play so well with Loving (which I liked a bit more), another inter-racial love story.

Next posting:
"Bruce" ate him

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