There have been several true stories coming out of Africa, but not one as compelling as A United Kingdom. With amazing performances and a plot ripe for a “Hollywood” picking, director Amma Asante takes you into the sanctum of a country on the edge of losing its existence because of a forbidden love. Told from the perspective of the couple who lived it and screen written from the pages of Susan Williams’ book “Color Bar”. The film has been released to home video in Blu-ray, DVD and Digital HD.
About to complete his schooling in London England in 1947, Seretse Kahama (David Oyelowo), the heir to the Kingdom of Bechuanaland (Botswana), has had a few drinks at a party and accepts the glances of the demonstrative Ruth Williams (Rosamund Pike). The two are smitten, but have very little odds on becoming a couple in London being he’s black and Ruth white. Following a second meeting however, Ruth inspires Seretse to take the chance at creating a romantic relationship.
Seretse gets a call from his uncle Tshekedi (Vusi Kunene) in Bechuanaland that he must return and start the process of taking over the tribe. Fearing he will never see Ruth again he asks her for her hand in marriage in spite of parental objection. Being a free spirit, Ruth throws caution to the wind and they get married even against the will of Tshekedi. Upon arriving in Bechuanaland, Tshekedi tells Seretse that he must divorce Ruth or give up his right to the throne.
Thus begins a true story of two lovers who have to face insurmountable odds during a critical time in Southern Africa with apartheid looming to the South of their country. Director Amma Asante who brought Belle to the screen takes the reins of this almost impossible task of mixing romance with politics. She introduces her characters showing the hostility of London whites against black people. Whether it be Ruth’s parents, her boss or even the Sir Alistair Canning (Jack Davenport), the British government’s representative in Southern Africa, chances of surviving the union between her and Seretse leads to a fight for a united country in both Africa and Britain.
The acting of David Oyelowo and Rosamund Pike delivers a chemistry hard to be offended by whether you’re any color. Rich in romance and unbridled realism, the two show the balance between Seretse and Ruth as they face the many critical challenges. Oyelowo puts Seretse to the test in front of his people in Bechuanaland who are not in favor of having a White Queen to represent their all black nation. They are insulted and weary of their future being a protectorate country under the British who provide for them. But Seretse stands strong ready to face all fears.
Pike shows Ruth’s persistence and will to spend the rest of her life with Seretse and agrees to do whatever he decides. A kind woman she makes her way in a strange land with very little comforts and dealing with the opposition to her new station in life. The two are the perfect actors for the roles and serve director Asante well.
The Blu-ray and DVD have some informative and historical features.
“Making of A United Kingdom” Here we meet the director and her cast as they go through the various scenes leading up to the Kingship.
“Filming in Botswana” How they shot the film in Botswana and what they went through to get certain scenes completed. A touching bit of Bechuanaland history is in one of the major shots.
“The Legacy of Seretse and Ruth” Goes through the steps it took to bring the two together and the reasons for equality. Screenwriter Guy Hibbert talks about the real Seretse and Ruth who are at the center of the film.
“London Film Festival” Opening night and Gala Premiere of the film. It includes interviews with director Amma Asante and actors from the film.
A United Kingdom has been rated PG-13 for some language including racial epithets and a scene of sensuality. There is also some violence in the form of a street fight. Editor’s notes: at the time the film takes place Bechuanaland, a country about the size of France, had a population of approximately 121,000 and has swelled to 2.3 million today. The country changed its name to Botswana in order to bring peace within the royal family and allow the country to take control its wealth.
FINAL ANALYSIS: A very good film that centers on equality.
Specifications and additional video information:
Cast: David Oyelowo, Rosamund Pike, Jack Davenport, Tom Felton, Laura Carmichael, Terry Pheto, Jessica Oyelowo, Arnold Oceng, Anton Lesser, Anastasia Hille, Jack Lowden, Nicholas Lyndhurst, Vusi Kunene, Theo Landey, Abena Ayivor, Charlotte Hope, Donald Molosi.
Director: Amma Asante
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some language including racial epithets and a scene of sensuality
Genre: Biography, Drama, Romance, True Story
Running Time: 1 hr. 51 min.
Video Release Date: June 6, 2017
Original Theatrical Release Date: February 10, 2017
Reviewed Format: Blu-ray (also available in DVD)
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1, Descriptive Audio 5.1
Video: Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.39:1
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish
Number of Discs: 2 Discs plus Digital HD code
Distributed by: Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment
Released in: Blu-ray, DVD, Digital HD
The comments within this review are the critic’s expressed opinions.