Casting light on neglected history
Director Amma Asante follows up 2013’s Belle with another handsome period drama that casts light on neglected figures from history. Her protagonists in A United Kingdom are Seretse Khama (David Oyelowo), crown prince of Bechuanaland (modern Botswana), and Ruth Williams (Rosamund Pike), the London office worker he married in 1948 in the face of fierce opposition from their families and the British and South African governments.
Theirs is a fascinating story, and they have found a sympathetic chronicler in Assante. Admittedly, her direction is a tad foursquare, contrasting damp, grey London, where the couple meet while Seretse is studying law, with the open skies and sun-baked earth of the African veldt to which they travel on their marriage.
And she is not particularly subtle when it comes to taking sides, with Jack Davenport’s snobbish British diplomat making an all too obvious villain. This is a smoothed out version of the real history, it’s clear. But Oyelowo and Pike bring immense warmth and dignity to their roles. And thanks to them we’re cheering the romance at the heart of the film from first to last.
Certificate 12A. Runtime 111 mins. Director Amma Asante
A United Kingdom debuts on Sky Cinema Premiere on Sunday 2 October. Available on Blu-ray, DVD & Digital from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment.
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A film critic for over 25 years, Jason admits the job can occasionally be glamorous – sitting on a film festival jury in Portugal; hanging out with Baz Luhrmann at the Chateau Marmont; chatting with Sigourney Weaver about The Archers – but he mostly spends his time in darkened rooms watching films. He’s also written theatre and opera reviews, two guide books on Rome, and competed in a race for Yachting World, whose great wheeze it was to send a seasick film critic to write about his time on the ocean waves. But Jason is happiest on dry land with a classic screwball comedy or Hitchcock thriller.