Film Review: A United Kingdom

A United Kingdom

Amma Asante’s A United Kingdom is a very British period drama. The film is well acted, and glossy in its production.

Heir to the Kingdom of Bechuanaland, Seretse Khama is studying in London when he meets Ruth Williams. The pair engage in a relationship, much to the chagrin of Ruth’s parents, Seretse’s uncle, and the British Government…

Director Amma Asante delivers an accomplished film with A United Kingdom. The film stands out because its subject matter is not widely known. It is based on the true story of the first President of Botswana and the ripples caused by his marriage to a white English wife. The film feels refreshing in its telling a new story in an era often seen in film.

Race relations are at the forefront of A United Kingdom. The relationship between Seretse and Ruth was unusual for the time, as well as being a diplomatic matter. As such, Assante’s film works on two levels. There is a personal love story to be told, which is conveyed in a suitably effective manner. The political complications give the film a sharper edge, and puts the relationship in a wider historical context.

The film is a period drama, with irregular accents of comedy. A United Kingdom follows the well-trodden path of British historical dramas. Those who have seen the trailer will not be surprised by anything in Guy Hibbert’s screenplay. Nevertheless, the film has enough substance to make it an enjoyable watch.

Asante’s direction is good, despite some standard period-drama set ups. The art direction is effective in showing a contrast in the London sequences palate to that of Africa. David Oyelowo delivers a convincing performance as Seretse. He is particularly captivating in his speech-giving, as exemplified in his Selma performance. Rosamund Pike has good chemistry with Oyelowo, and is strong in the film. Tom Felton and Jack Davenport are well cast in their respective roles.

A United Kingdom is presents an engaging story in a familiar format. Despite this, there is a lot to like about the film.

A United Kingdom opens the the BFI London Film Festival on 5th October 2016.

BFI London Film Festival 2016 Launch

Today saw the launch of the BFI London Film Festival 2016. This year’s programme is bursting with cinematic delights. There are more galas than in previous years, and screen talk participants include Werner Herzog and Paul Verhoeven. Here are some of the films to look out for at London Film Festival 2016.

Headline Galas

The Birth of a Nation

The London Film Festival 2016’s opening gala A United Kingdom had already been announced, the Scorsese-produced, Ben Wheatley’s Free Fire looks like a lot of fun. Elsewhere, plenty of hotly anticipated films including La La Land, Arrival and The Birth of a Nation. Writer-director Nate Parker also stars in the story of an enslaved preacher who led a revolt in 1830s Virginia. Tom Ford’s Nocturnal Animals is also a headline gala. An adaptation of Austin Wright’s novel Tony and Susan, the film stars Amy Adams, Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Shannon. Mira Nair’s Queen of Katwe stars David Oyelowo and Lupita Nyong’o.

Strand Galas and Special Presentations

The Handmaiden

This year sees additional galas, which will take place on a purpose built venue on the Strand. They include The Handmaiden, from director Chan-wook Park. The film looks as sumptuous as Park’s previous film Stoker. Miles Teller stars in Bleed For This, based on the true story of boxer Vinny Paziena. Spike Lee’s Chi-Raq is the Sonic Gala. The hip hop musical features Teyonah Parris, Wesley Snipes, Angela Bassett and Samuel L. Jackson. Andrea Arnold’s American Honey and Ava DuVernay’s The 13th are among the special presentations this year.

Official Competition

My Life As A Courgette

Paul Verhoeven’s Elle is amongst the Official Competition at London Film Festival 2016. Staring Isabelle Huppert, the film is an adaptation of a Philippe Dijan novel. Terence Davies’ A Quiet Presentation is a biopic of Emily Dickinson staring Cynthia Nixon. Barry Jenkins’ Moonlight, about a young man struggling with his sexuality in 1980s Miami, looks like a great watch. In the First Feature Competition, Porto sees one of Anton Yelchin’s final performances, whilst animation My Life As A Courgette looks like a lot of fun. David Lynch: The Art Life is among the contenders for the Documentary Competition, as well as The Graduation. The latter is a documentary about a prestigious film school in Paris. Chasing Asylum, about the Australian government’s immigration policies, seems very topical.

Strands

The Salesman

The Love strand features Lovesong, director So Yong Kim’s film about a lonely young mother. It stars Jena Malone and Riley Keough. Highlights in the Debate category include Asghar Farhadi’s The Salesman. A Separation‘s Farhadi has already won awards at Cannes. Mindhorn features in the Laugh strand. The film stars Julian Barratt as a washed-up 1980s TV detective. Dare features Christine, starring Rebecca Hall as the notorious television journalist. Paul Schrader’s Dog Eat Dog looks to be a highlight of the Thrill section, with Nicholas Cage starring alongside Willem Dafoe. Another David Lynch connection (Cage and Dafoe starred in Lynch’s Wild at Heart), Blue Velvet Revisited, features in the Cult strand.

I Am Not A Serial Killer

Cult also features I Am Not A Serial Killer, based on the young adult novel. The Innocents looks to be a highlight of the Journey strand. Anne Fontaine’s film is about a young doctor working for the French Red Cross in 1945. London Town, a coming of age film set in 1979 London, features in the Sonic strand. The Family strand includes Rock Dog, an animation featuring the voices of J.K. Simmons and Luke Wilson. Finally, Experimenta includes Have You Seen My Movie?; a must-see for cinema fans.

The full London Film Festival 2016 programme can be viewed here. The BFI London Film Festival runs from 5th-16th October 2016.