Based on the true story of the romance between Sir Seretse Khama and his wife Ruth Williams Khama, this extraordinary film is surprisingly powerful and moving.
What a beautiful and extraordinary story this is. It is even more so thanks to the wonderfully sensitive but confrontational film that Amma Asante has created, featuring two fabulous central performances from David Oyelowo and Rosamund Pike.
Based on the real life story of the heir to the throne of Bechuanaland, Seretse Khama of the Bamangwato tribe and his romance with British woman Ruth Williams, the film shows the high level of intensity and hardships that their love produced in the face of government and family opposition.
While at the centre of the film is a true love story that has been beautifully captured, Asante has also placed a strong sub plot involving politics and a battle against racism which keeps the audience engaged from beginning to end. Ultimately though it is a story of hope and love that is completely inspirational.
A United Kingdom never flinches away from the intensity of the racism of the period or how the British government would do anything to tear the couple apart – leading to a long term exile for Seretse in Britain, leaving Ruth out in Africa to try and create a new life for herself. It is a film that makes you feel intensely angry about attitudes back then – which although these days is a lot better yet is still far from perfect.
Yet it is also a story of redemption and acceptance. Ruth, who was forced to choose between living with her family or a life being called horrendous names and faced with constant judgement but being with the man that she loves eventually is reconciled with her father as well as gradually being accepted by the people of her new country and home is touching to watch.
The film is has great pace – diving straight into the story with no hesitation, completely capturing the audience’s attention from the opening scenes. It has plenty of charm and grace, thanks to the wonderful cinematography, capturing the spirit and style of the era perfectly.
But of course what really makes the film engaging and heartfelt are the two central performances from David Oyelowo and Rosamund Pike as Seretse Khama and Ruth Williams. Together, they have a wonderfully natural chemistry but are equally capable of dealing with the problems their characters face individually as well with plenty of charisma. Oyelowo in particular shows passion and drive when making his impassioned speech to the tribe that is absolutely inspirational and unforgettable.
Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet might be considered to be the greatest love story ever told – but personally I think this real life love story has more heart, passion and grit about it to make it the greatest love story ever told.
A United Kingdom is available to buy on DVD now.