A United Kingdom tells the defiant true story of Seretse Khama, King of Bechuanaland (modern Botswana) and Ruth Williams, the London office worker he fell in love with and married in 1948. From the very beginning of their relationship they face fierce opposition from both their families and the British and South African governments. Director Amma Asante captures perfectly one of real life’s greatest love stories, a tale that’s inspiring in more ways than one. A United Kingdom is a remarkable true story about the conflicts of love, race and politics.
Seretse (David Oyelowo) and Ruth (Rosamund Pike) fall in love innocently in period London and soon plan to marry during a time when even the very idea of an interracial couple was simply unacceptable. To complicate things further, Seretse is no ordinary man. He is in fact the heir to the throne, future King of what we now know as Botswana, Africa.
Ruth faces rejection from Seretse’s people and shame from her own country, whilst his decision to bring home a white wife leaves his position as King hanging in the balance. Not only that, the British government becomes involved, doing everything in its power to keep them apart.
Despite this, and against all odds, Ruth and Seretse remain united and fight for their forbidden love. David and Rosamund who portray the two leads have incredible natural chemistry. They are very believable as a couple, and I think it’s fair to say this film just wouldn’t have worked had this not been the case. Their chemistry is essential in the portrayal of such a powerful love story.
As an audience we watch them fall in love with ease and are soon rooting for them and the survival of their relationship. It’s easy to hate antagonists such as Sir Alistair Canning (Jack Davenport), the civil servant who persistently gets in their way. It’s impossible not to become fully involved in the story.
A United Kingdom is a beautiful love story that’s just as beautiful on screen. Filmed on location in Botswana, the cinematography captures the breath-taking backdrops of the African savannah. It is very apparent that this film possesses great storytelling, and it feels like the story has been presented to us just like how it all really happened in real life.
There is one criticism however, and that would be the politics slightly overwhelming the love story. Described as one of the greatest love stories ever told, and the true story of Ruth and Seretse arguably is, yet as a film there is maybe a little too much focus on the political side things.
After it has been established that the couple have fallen in love, it begins to lean more towards their battle against the British and South African governments intent on sabotaging Seretse’s reign, and focuses less on the romance between him and his wife. There is no doubt however that the fierce political opposition Seretse and Ruth face plays a huge part in their story and so maybe this is unavoidable.
A United Kingdom is an incredible, thought provoking story of defiance. It will leave you feeling inspired, proving that love is worth fighting for, and shows how far we have come as a country in regards to race and equality. Available now on DVD and Blu-ray, make sure you put this on your “must see” watch list.
Dir: Amma Asante
Scr: Guy Hibbert
Starring: David Oyelowo, Rosamund Pike, Tom Felton, Jack Davenport
Prd: Brunson Green, Peter Heslop
DOP: Sam McCurdy
Music: Patrick Doyle
Country: Czech Republic/UK/USA
Run time: 111 mins
A United Kingdom is available on DVD now.