A UNITED KINGDOM
Love Endures All Things
Release Date: February 10, 2017
Starring: David Oyelowo, Rosamund Pike,
Jack Davenport, Tom Felton,
Vusi Kenene, Laura Carmichael,
Terry Pheto, Jessica Oyelowo,
Arnold Oceng, Anton Lesser,
Anastasia Hille, Jack Lowden
Audience: Teenagers and adults
Runtime: 111 minutes
Distributor: Fox Searchlight Pictures/News
Director: Amma Asante
Executive Producer: Guy Hibbert, Cameron McCracken
Producer: Brunson Green, Peter Heslop,
Charlie Mason, David Oyelowo
Writer: Guy Hibbert
Address Comments To:James Murdoch, CEO, Rupert Murdoch, Executive Co-Chairman, and Lachlan Murdoch, Executive Co-Chairman, News Corp.
Stephen Gilula, President/COO and Nancy Utley, President/COO, Fox Searchlight Pictures
20th Century Fox Film Corp. (a division of Fox, Inc. and News Corp.)
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Los Angeles, CA 90035
Phone: (310) 369-1000; Fax: (310) 369-2359
In an established lineage going back many generations Seretse Khama (David Oyelowo) is the heir apparent to the kingdom of Beschuanaland in the South of Africa. He’s been getting groomed for a number of years in Great Britain to that end. During his long period of education, Seretse’s uncle, Tshekedi Khama (Vusi Kunene), has been acting as his mentor, counselor and caretaker for the throne, but now the time has come for Seretse to take his rightful place.
During his last year in London in 1947, however, Seretse meets Ruth Williams (Rosamund Pike) during a church dance, and they begin a loving courtship that will eventually end in marriage. As soon as the good uncle back home hears about Seretse’s plan to marry Ruth, he just about thinks of a million reasons why this marriage would be totally wrong for Seretse and his people.
Ruth isn’t doing much better at her end either. When her employers find out she’s dating Seretse and plans to marry him, they fire her. It gets even worse with her parents. Upon learning of her plans to marry the would-be African king, Ruth’s father feels deeply insulted by her announcement. He reacts by telling her in no uncertain terms that he wants nothing more to do with her, ever. This is only the beginning of their troubles.
After the ceremony, the newly married couple travel to Africa and are coolly received by Seretse’s family. Worse still, Seretse’s uncle accuses Seretse of demeaning his people by taking a white woman for a wife, and demands he surrender his claim to the throne immediately. Seretse will have none of it. The next day he delivers an impassionate speech to his people that turns their anger into acceptance, and their rejection into adulation. Uncle Tshekedi is humiliated and decides to leave the scene with those who are still opposed to Seretse and Ruth’s marriage, to avoid further confrontation.
Behind the scenes, however, Tshekedi works with the British Government to trick Seretse into leaving the country. When he’s invited back to England, Seretse leaves Ruth behind as insurance. This complicates matters for Britain and Seretse’s uncle, who hoped to keep both Seretse and Ruth away from Africa forever. The downside is that Ruth is now left alone in a country she does not know.
Upon his arrival in London, Seretse hopes to work things out somehow. However, he discovers that, at the request of his Uncle, and with the British Prime Minister’s collusion, Seretse has been banished for five years from Botswana instead. Also, they try to entice him to take a cushy government position in Jamaica. These devious ploys tempt Seretse to give up his claim to the throne.
Meanwhile, however, Ruth is now pregnant in Africa and no longer together with the love of her life, the thing she feared the most. Eventually, the whole state of affairs becomes almost too much to bear.
Will Seretse and Ruth cave to all the pressure? Or will they triumph?
A UNITED KINGDOM is heartwarming and based on a true story. It also provides an history lesson, not only about the emergence of a democratic African republic, in this case Botswana, but also including some historical references to the various interests that motivated people to oppose the movie’s protagonists. David Oyelowo gives a strong performance as the would-be king. Rosamund Pike, as Seretse’s wife Ruth, is not quite as good, but she still delivers a convincing performance.
Director Amma Assante is to be commended for leaving out expletives and graphic sexual scenes. She makes this entertaining movie with a dose of uplifting romance apt for adult audiences. That said, the movie is a bit predictable and could use more depth.
A UNITED KINGDOM has a light Christian worldview with some strong moral elements. The protagonists meet at a church dance. Also, they eventually get married and have a baby. Despite their disagreements, the family members in the movie reconcile with one another. In the movie, Seretse supports forming a constitutional republic with elected leaders, and that’s exactly what happened in real life when Seretse became the first Prime Minister of Botswana in 1965. Under his leadership, the country went from being one of the poorest African nations to one of the richest and most democratic.
Fifty years after Seretse became Prime Minister, the movie’s attitude toward the historical Seretse, who died in 1980, and the developing Botswana republic is generally validated by MOVIEGUIDE® friend Dr. Peter Hammond’s African ministry Frontline Fellowship in a 2012 article titled “Hope for Africa” by Colin Newman, http://frontline.org.za/index.php?option=com_multicategories&view=article&id=963:hope-for-africa&catid=24:political-social-issues-cat):
“ZAMBIA AND BOTSWANA
[African Editor for THE ECONOMIST Robert] Guest also compares Zambia and Botswana. ‘At Independence in the 1960’s, Zambia was Africa’s second richest country, whereas Botswana was what one British colonial official described as a useless piece of territory.’ Yet after decades of Kenneth Kaunda’s Socialist Humanism, nationalizing Zambia’s mines, telling the peasants what to grow and forcing them to sell their crops to the government at artificially low prices, Zambia was bankrupted.
“Despite huge infusions of foreign aid, Zambians are now poorer than they were at Independence. Contrast this with Botswana. . . . Unlike Zambia, Botswana spent its windfall wisely. Dollars were ploughed into infrastructure, education and health. Private business was allowed to grow, foreign investment was welcomed. Government was astoundingly clean. The budget is usually in surplus. . .. For Africa to thrive, it needs more and bigger Botswanas. And for that, the continent needs saner policies.”
A UNITED KINGDOM is well produced and entertaining. David Oyelowo gives a strong, passionate performance as the would-be king. That said, the movie’s a bit predictable, so the storyline could use a greater sense of urgency. However, it has a light Christian worldview with strong moral elements promoting economic and family harmony, love, and truth. Also, the hero supports turning his country into a constitutional republic with elected leaders. A UNITED KINGDOM warrants caution for older children, due to some mature content.