"Love Endures All Things"
A UNITED KINGDOM is the entertaining, true story of Seretse Khama’s struggle to assume the throne of his kingdom in Botswana after marrying a British white woman. The movie has strong production values, is well made and executed, and contains some positive Christian, moral elements, but it unfolds a bit too predictably and contains some content requiring caution for older children.
A UNITED KINGDOM is the true story of the heir to the throne of Beschuanaland, a tiny landlocked nation in Southern Africa, later to become modern Botswana. It depicts his struggle to become that nation’s king after marrying a white female office worker from London in 1947. Met with opposition from all sides, but united in their love for each other, the couple presses on to the goal despite strong racial and political forces striving to thwart their efforts no matter the cost.
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.”
(C, BB, P, L, V, S, M) Light Christian worldview with strong moral elements attacking racism, including the two protagonists meet at a church dance and get married and truth/love prevail over deceit and racism, but the Christian references could be stronger and more prevalent, plus male protagonist promotes developing a constitutional republic with elected leaders instead of a king or other form of totalitarian government; a “bastard” obscenity and a couple light profanities (such as “In God’s name”), plus some racial and sexual epithets/insults such as use of the “n” word and a woman is called a “slut”; some violence includes troops beating people with batons, a boxing fight in a ring where the male protagonist is head butted, and a fist fight in a street where blood is seen on a character’s face as a result of being struck; implied marital intercourse sex as married couple begin to undress each other and kiss on their wedding night done in a tasteful way, and couple wakes up in bed under sheets; no nudity; some alcohol use; no smoking or drugs; and, racism but rebuked, arguments, deceit, lying, and family members butt heads but reconcile at the end.
A UNITED KINGDOM is the true story of the heir to the throne of a tiny landlocked nation in Southern Africa, which became the modern republic of Botswana. In 1947, Seretse Khama is heir to the throne in his native land, a British colony. While studying in England, he falls in love and marries a white woman. Nearly everyone around them, including their own families, are against their marriage for various reasons, including international financial considerations. Nevertheless, the couple continues their quest for a happy life in the husband’s native land. Will they triumph over their critics and detractors?
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.