Weekly Movie Review: A United Kingdom

A United Kingdom; an unconventional love story

Most people are by nature creatures of habit. These habits and routines, while they may become predictable and boring can help to provide safety and stability. Whether we’d like to admit it, we all have activities and expectations that help to get us through the day with relative ease. Disrupt these routines or stray from social norms and expectations and total chaos can ensue. One recently released film explores a situation in which veering off the beaten path led to an international crisis.

Set in the late 1940s and early 1950s, A United Kingdom is the true story of Seretse Khama (David Oyelowo), prince of Botswana and the international upheaval his relationship and eventual marriage to a white woman, Ruth Williams (Rosamund Pike), caused. In order to prepare for his eventual kingship of the African country, Seretse is sent off to school in England.

However while finishing up his schooling, Ruth, a lowly typist, catches Seretse’s eye. They begin a whirlwind relationship and quickly fall in love. But as soon as they fall in love, Seretse is called back to take his rightful place on the throne in Botswana. Naturally, this throws a major kink into their relationship. Not wanting to be apart, Seretse proposes marriage and they are married soon after. In order to be together, Ruth gives up everything she has every known in England and off to Botswana they go, but things don’t go as planned. Because of his choice in spouse, Seretse is kept from becoming king and due to their interests in Africa at the time, the English government gets involved in the matter as well.

Despite the truly fascinating political fallout that comes as a result of Seretse and Ruth’s relationship, the film is essentially about Ruth and Seretse and their love for one another. We see them fall in love, get married, have a child and then due to forces greater than themselves, kept apart. However, while the film gets into Seretse as an individual, the film never really accomplishes this with Ruth. Ruth is a typist, who early on in the film meets Seretse at a party and that’s really all the background info we’re ever provided on her. As the film progresses this lingering feeling that Ruth is underdeveloped as character persists.

As interesting as the love story of Ruth and Seretse is, it’s the political ramifications that come as a result of their relationship that is most fascinating. Unfortunately, it takes a considerable amount of time before getting to that point. Before that it’s just a lot like many other films where opposing forces are trying to keep our main characters apart simply because of their differing skin color.

A United Kingdom is an uplifting tale about the power of love to overcome pretty insurmountable obstacles. The story and Olyelow’s inspiring performance make this one to see. 3.5 out of 5.