Quick Hit: The formula works, and the acting is great in this true story romance.
There are quite a few dramas out there regarding forbidden love. It’s a concept that goes back farther than Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, though that is probably the most famous story of such. It’s a story that is repeated so often that we seek out real people in history that have had these experiences, because art often imitates life, and the reverse is true as well – life imitates art. So is it really any surprise that the film opens with a “True Story” moniker, a voice over, and a dramatic score? Not really. Is it a surprise that the film ends in a triumphant freeze that focuses on the actors smiling faces before cutting to real life photos and a description of the couple’s achievements? Not at all.
But what is a surprise is the fact that you’re consistently entertained by the film, despite the fact it’s a paint-by-numbers picture of a historical romance drama.
David Oyelowo plays Seretse Khama, heir to the throne of Bechuanaland (now known to the world as Botswana). Rosamund Pike plays Ruth Williams, girl that falls in love with said heir. To give a brief synopsis of the plot: he’s black, she’s white, and all the people don’t think that’s alright. These folks range from high ranking government officials to Ruth’s own father. But Seretse’s family is opposed as well – his sister and uncle (who has been running the country while Seretse obtains an education) vehemently oppose the marriage.
The couple themselves save the day (and the film). David Oyelowo consistently shows that he knows how to give a speech, much like in Selma. He is at his most captivating when he is speaking directly to his people in large crowds. Pike, on the other hand, manages to do all the heavy lifting in the quieter scenes, whether it is when she finds out she is pregnant in a hospital surrounded by women who disrespect her, or when she finds out about her husband’s exile. But what really made the film were the moments of chemistry between the couple as they were forming. There were several quite moments during courtship and shortly after marriage that allowed Seretse and Ruth to have time to grow and enjoy their love.
I think what was my least favorite thing about the film was the editing/way it was shot. There are some shots that are so beautiful and atmospheric it almost takes your breath away – that’s what being on location in Botswana will do for you. But the problem is sometimes there are random editing tricks, like dissolves, that completely take away from the action. There are also some scenes with a bunch of cuts to different cameras that are completely useless. I think it would have been better to focus on the dialogue between people rather than continue to cut around as much as happens.
Overall, entertaining, but not perfect. I’m giving A United Kingdom a “B”.
For more on this film, check out IMDB.
"All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy"