A United Kingdom (4 stars)

A United Kingdom

TIFF 2016: Director Amma Asante and stars Rosamund Pike and David Oyelowo bring warmth and charm to this astonishing true-life romance

The third feature from director Amma Asante revisits a true life romance that had sweeping global repercussions. Like her previous film Belle, it combines the personal and the political and, although it feels a more simplistic piece, it includes a number of rousing, crowd-pleasing moments that make it hard to resist on an emotional level.

In a post-War London that feels straight out of Brief Encounter (foggy streets, soggy days and slate grey austerity), Ruth (Rosamund Pike) attends a Missionary Society dance where she meets black law student Seretse Khama (David Oyelowo). An instant attraction quickly blossoms into something deeper and more meaningful, and the happy couple decide to marry. Their union faces all the prejudices of the era, but is all the more significant because Khama is the first in line to the throne of Bechuanaland (today's Botswana).

Her Majesty's government, in the shape of frosty diplomat Sir Ian Canning (Jack Davenport) is firmly opposed to a marriage that will be seen as an act of provocation to a South Africa on the eve of introducing apartheid. The details of what happened next reflects badly on a colonialist Britain (and successive Prime Ministers Clement Attlee and Winston Churchhill) that placed self-interest far above a just and honourable course of action. The film is fuelled by a righteous anger that the viewer is encouraged to share. You are left asking why is this story not better known?

Asante brings out the best in her actors, with a luminous Pike capturing the steely fortitude of Ruth and sharing a joyful chemistry with Oyelowo who risks becoming typecast as noble leaders fighting impossible odds with endless dignity and pride. Together they bring a warm human touch to this sentimental, well-crafted history lesson.

Screened as part of the Toronto International Film Festival 2016. General release from Fri 25 Nov.

A United Kingdom

  • 4 stars
  • 2016
  • US / UK / Czech Republic
  • 1h 51min
  • 12A
  • Directed by: Amma Asante
  • Cast: Rosamund Pike, David Oyelowo, Tom Felton, Laura Carmichael
  • UK release: 25 November 2016

In post-war London, Ruth (Pike) and black law student Seretse (Oyelowo) fall in love; the thing is, he's first in line to the throne of Bechuanaland (today's Botswana). Based on a true story; Pike and Oyelowo bring a warm human touch to this sentimental but well-crafted history lesson.