A United Kingdom (2016)

A United Kingdom
Director: Amma Asante
Writer: Guy Hibbert
Based on:  Susan Williams’ book Colour Bar
Cast: David Oyelowo, Rosamund Pike, Tom Felton, Jack Davenport, Laura Carmichael, Terry Pheto, Jessica Oyelowo, Vusi Kunene, Nicholas Lyndhurst, Arnold Oceng, Abena Ayivor
Seen on: 3.4.2017

Ruth (Rosamund Pike) works as a clerk and would mostly have a boring life if her sister (Laura Carmichael) didn’t drag her out every once in a while. On one of those outings, Ruth meets Seretse (David Oyelowo). He is charming, good-looking and taken by Ruth. But as Ruth discovers he is not just a student, but also the prince and future ruler of Bechuanaland. Despite the difficulties by their difference in status, the two want to get married, not anticipating that the real (diplomatic) scandal for both Bechuanaland and Great Britain is the fact that their relationship is an interracial one.

A United Kingdom covers a bit of history that is virtually unknown here (Austria or most likely Europe or the global North in general) and Asanta packs this fascinating story into an easily understood and emotionally engaging film with a great cast.

Since I knew virtually nothing about the Khamas going into the film, I can’t speak to the accuracy of the portrayal of them and their story. I know that I wondered whethere they managed to explain the politics of the situation with such clarity – and they really did achieve that – because they were simply really good at explaining things or whether they had to simplify a lot to achieve that clarity. In either case, it was a very good introduction to the story.

Asante is not a cold filmmaker who tells the story from an objective distance. Instead she is right there with her characters and works with their emotions. At times this felt maybe a little too manipulative in the sense that the emotions felt a little enhanced to make sure that the audience got the point. But it was tear-jerking in a good way, and I don’t mind being put through the emotions if it’s done well – and it was.

David Oyelowo and Rosamund Pike were great in their roles, both in their characters’ happiness and in their pain and difficulties. There are some nice supporting actors as well, but the film hinges on the two. Since their performances are as flawless as their looks, they pull it off with ease.

There’s realy not much I have to complain about in this film. Even if you aren’t interested in (post-)colonial history, the film is very much worth seeing. And who knows, maybe you’ll leave it interested in the topic.

Summarizing: Really strong and definitely worth it.

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