A United Kingdom – Review (London Film Festival)6.10.16 # Review # 3 Comments
The 60th BFI London Film Festival is underway and launches in fine fashion with A United Kingdom, a post-WWII romance which sees David Oyelowo and Rosamund Pike play a couple whose relationship shakes the foundations of two countries.
A United Kingdom is director Amma Asante’s follow up to 2014’s Belle, another British period drama inspired by true events that explored themes of race and romance. Here, Prince Seretse Khama of Bechuanaland (Oyelowo) meets Ruth Williams (Pike) while studying in her native England. Over time they become inseparable, and when Khama has to return home to assume his duties as ruler of Bechuanaland he makes it clear that he wants to do so with Ruth by his side, whatever adversity they might both face as a result of making that choice.
There is unsurprisingly disapproval from both families, though whilst protestations from the likes of Ruth’s father George (an excellently cast Nicholas Lyndhurst) do little to deter her or Khama, Khama’s uncle is more than capable of impeding the pair. He calls upon every resource at his disposal and collaborates with the British government, whose motivations are partially informed by the policies of a pre-Apartheid South Africa, to prevent Khama from being king, being with his wife, or both.
As with Belle, Asante impresses with striking imagery. The opening sequence shows Khama boxing in a ring surrounded by large paintings in the type of hall you expect to see Bond villains playing chess in. The performances are also strong, with Asante once again using Tom Felton as a supporting player to great effect, and drawing commanding performances from the two leads. There are excellent and unexpected comedic touches too, from the relationship quirks of Khama and Ruth, to sight gags.
A United Kingdom is released 25th November in the UK, 17th February in the US.