If I am honest I can't say that I was particularly enthused to see A United Kingdom. A story of love that ushered in the birth of democracy in Botswana certainly sounds intriguing, yet something in its trailer left me wanting.
Set against the backdrop of post-war politics in the 40s and 50s, A United Kingdom is based on the true story of the relationship between Ruth Williams (Rosamund Pike), a white salesman's daughter, and Seretse Khama (David Oyelowo), a black Bechuanaland (now Botswana) national who happens to be next in line to the nation's throne. Racial concerns beset their relationship. Battle lines are clearly marked out and Seretse's choice between love and duty is a conundrum that fully hits home in a stirring speech to his people: "I love my people, but I love my wife." The waters are further muddied by the subsequent forced exile of Seretse which both separates him from his nation as well as the now pregnant Ruth.
Director Amma Asante (Belle) has entered the hostile territory of race relations and politics at a very personal level. Her ability to tell a love story amidst the political turmoil of fringe post-war politics is handled confidently, and she appears to have drawn very heart-felt performances from Pike and Oyelowo. Yet, this very interesting story is let down by a very tame screenplay (by Guy Hibbert) that at times lacks subtlety and unfortunately doesn't risk any opportunities where a nuanced approach might have worked better.
There is no doubt that this is a crowd pleasing film . Moreover, it certainly engaged me on a personal level. But alas, the mild mannered approach to its political agenda left me wishing it had a little more teeth.
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Rating: 3/5 stars