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.