Director Amma Asante builds off her picturesque BELLE with the moving and also picturesque A UNITED KINGDOM. Click through for Gadi Elkon's review of the film.
A UNITED KINGDOM is the true story of King Seretse Khama of Botswana (David Oyelowo) and Ruth Williams (Rosamund Pike), a white woman from London, which caused an international uproar when they decided to marry in the late 1940’s just as apartheid was being introduced into South Africa. It was a decision that altered the course of African history. A UNITED KINGDOM Website.
Screenwriter Guy Hibbert molds a well paced film that dives into the harsh realities of a world not equal. The further we see the romance between King Kharma and Ruth Williams the further the world seems to want them apart. "The World" though seemed to embrace their union and their constant love overcame the harsh attempts of separation from the racist governments trying to bar their union. Hibbert's script allows the innocence of their union to hold true throughout and yet both have real moments of power. Oyelowo gives multiple triumphant speeches to justify his heart's desire. His speeches to his country men are extremely powerful and ring the truest of anything in the film.
Pike's understated performance mirrors the real life Ruth, but her stoic nature is the film's brightest element. Director Amma Asante takes a huge step from the picturesque but slow paced BELLE into a more vibrant story in A UNITED KINGDOM. She captures the struggle and the love throughout. There union is given a quick introduction, but luckily the actors relish the time on screen to show true love. Take for instance the wonderful proposal sequence overlooking nighttime London.
The film doesn't dive to much into the South African descent into apartheid by keeping it at a distance. Instead Jack Davenport and Tom Felton shine as the embodiment of the racist times Ruth and Seretse are fighting. Davenport especially owns every evil moment as Alistair Canning. The acting in the film is well done and showcases the talented actors take the importance of the movie to a new level. Davenport and Felton really amp things up next to the proud performances of Oyelowo and Pike. Even with the male performances having a lot of the fight, the females highlight the film. Whether it's the wives of our evil figures that secretly try to manipulate Pike or the African women who are looking to hold on to their African King's legacy. Laura Carmichael/Jessica Oyelowo (The white wives) and Terry Pieto/Abena Ayivor (The Kharma Women) are wonderful in their verbal battles with Pike. The softening of Pieto's Naledi Kharma to Pike's Ruth Williams is an especially poignant moment in the movie. Overall the casting and acting is superb.
But Asante's best moments in the film are all done in the stark openness of Africa. Sam McCurdy's ability to showcase the vastness of Africa really opens the film and makes it a wonderful theater experience. We see the incredible riches of a such a beautiful continent even if the warring Europeans are only caring about the mineral wealth. The film still showcases the constant attempts of the whites to separate and dehumanize the African people.
Overall A United Kingdom is a film that carries a powerful message that is fully delivered with elegance and pride. Everyone seems to bring their A-game and it shows in the film's pacing. Their isn't a sluggish or unimportant moment. The movie may not have the punch of other films like Hidden Figures or Loving, but the film seems just as important and connects the audience just as well. Easily one of the better releases this month and seems more fitted for an award season release but is a nice treat now nonetheless. For more information on the film please go to their site, here.