>>> Film about the mixed-race marriage between a London commoner and the future president of Botswana is an absorbing biopic
A UNITED KINGDOM (Amma Asante). 111 minutes. Opens Friday (February 24). See listing. Rating: NNNN
Amma Asante’s follow-up to Belle tells the story of Ruth Williams and Seretse Khama, whose courtship and subsequent marriage scandalized both their nations in the years after the Second World War: she was a London commoner, and he was in line to become king of Bechuanaland, the nation that would become Botswana.
Also, he was Black and she was white.
On its face, A United Kingdom is about a couple following their hearts in the face of prejudice, a story we’ve seen told time and time again. And while Asante does have the unavoidable scenes of parental disapproval – from both sides – and political gamesmanship, she finds a new angle that makes the whole thing immediate and real.
As played by David Oyelowo and Rosamund Pike, Khama and Williams aren’t stoic martyrs or noble heroes, just two people who are utterly blindsided by the depth of their love. They’re scared and awed by one another, and that vulnerability makes them into human beings rather than icons.
The result is an intimate romantic drama that just happens to play out on the world stage. And it’s all the richer for it.