A United Kingdom is based on extraordinary true events. In 1947, Seretse Khama, the King of Botswana, met Ruth Williams, a London office worker. They fell in love but their proposed marriage was challenged not only by their families but by the British and South African governments. The latter had recently introduced the policy of apartheid and found the notion of a biracial couple ruling a neighboring country intolerable. South Africa threatened the British: either thwart the couple or be denied access to South African uranium and gold and face the risk of South Africa invading Botswana. The film does not reflect well on British Governments, of either of the main parties, and it seems that Winston Churchill was not a man of his word and betrayed the couple.
Director Amma Asante, who made Belle, is carving a niche for herself, making gorgeous-looking cinema from untold black histories. Her best asset here is David Oyelowo, playing Khama. The quieter and more dignified Seretse becomes, the more riveting Oyelowo is to watch. In Selma, he soared to oratorical heights, delivering Martin Luther King Jr’s ‘I have a dream’ speech. Here he has to deliver another, albeit quieter, address to his people and is equally effective. Oyelowo and Rosamund Pike, playing his wife, have solid chemistry together and Pike shines in the quieter scenes, whether she’s (somewhat naively) shocked by coldness and casual racism, or touched by acts of kindness from the villagers who initially rejected her.
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Venue: William Loveless Hall