By Hayden Manning
A United Kingdom is set in the late 1940’s, when racial segregation was still in effect. The story begins in London, England; revolving around an African-American man, Seretse Khama (played by David Oyelowo), who is studying law. One night, as Seretse is attending a party, he makes eye contact with a white British woman, Ruth Williams (Rosamund Pike), and once they officially introduce themselves, their love for one another ignites. But discrimination from society also begins from these first moments. After their first date, Seretse tells his newfound love that he must leave the country because of his birthright as king in his home country Botswana. Before he leaves, Ruth takes on the trying task of accepting his marriage proposal and decides to live with her husband down in South Africa.
Throughout the film, you witness the struggles of the newly wed by being deemed socially unacceptable, and through the legal complications that they face through their mixed racial marriage.
The movie begins with Oyelowo in a boxing ring fighting an Englishman. Throughout this fight, you get your first glimpse of the racism that is happening during this portrayed time period. The Englishman whispers unnecessary insults and cheats his way to victory. Along with this scene, you also get the sense that Seretse was somewhat experienced in fighting. By including this scene, the director (Amma Asante) was able to include a minor fighting scene later on, as Seretse defended his love, Ruth, that left no questions asked.
Right off the bat, you were able to tell that this movie was placed in the 1950’s. The costume designer and production designer were able to collaborate and give you the best interpretation of the 50’s you could get. Most of the men from England wore dark colored, double-breasted vests, and a lot of bowler hats were used as well. For the women, they all wore old, flower-type design dresses with padded shoulders.
Besides the costuming, the lighting of the film made you feel like you were back in the 50’s. Most of the lights were old-time lamps that had the satisfactory click and buzz when they were turned on and off. When in South Africa, they utilized the poorness of the town, and used oil lamps as the source of light instead of electric sourced lights.
The love story in A United Kingdom is one worth marvelling. It is similar to the love of Romeo and Juliet, but instead of 2 factions disapproving of their love, the entire world is against it. At first, the people of England disagree. They rebuke and ridicule the couple, who stand firm in their love. After Ruth announces her engagement with her family, they ostracize her and her father states that he never wants to talk to her again.
On the other end, Seretse is nearly rejected by his own country’s people as well as his uncle. When the couple first get married, only about 6 supporters attend the wedding.
As the story goes on, and the 2 reach the country that Seretse is king of, you see that nobody supports their love of each other; neither whites nor blacks. For a time, it seems that the entire world is against them, but Seretse and Ruth fight through it, and eventually convince the people that love is not based on the color of skin, which is also how society to be seeing everything: in equality. About halfway through the movie is when you see the first transition of the people of Botswana beginning to accept their new queen.
Draco Malfoy (actually Rufus Lancaster) comes to pick up both Seretse and Ruth to be flown back to London for a meeting with the British representative of the land. While in England, Seretse is banished from his land and is refused to return for the next 5 years. Between the time of his banishment and the fight against the banishment, Ruth leads the people alone. Within the time of her leading, she has Seretse’s child. Before Seretse is able to successfully overcome his banishment, he holds a conference to fight against the government, with the intentions to lead the people he loves, and reunite with his wife. When Seretse walks into the conference room, he stops and looks at the hundreds of attendees in astonishment. Early in the movie, he only had about 6 supporters that came to his wedding. Now he has an entire conference room filled with both races of people. After the conference, at the end of the movie, Seretse negotiates his way back to Botswana and back to his wife and child.
A United Kingdom was a great movie with a roller coaster of emotions. They were able to beautifully display the time period through the makeup, clothes, and music. It was cool to see that this movie was based on actual events and that real people had overcome great trials just because they loved each other. But even though this was a great movie, it was very slow. Two hours had never felt longer. Despite how fast it moved, it was still worth checking out, and I recommend seeing it.
Parent Guide: Short sex scene, and few racial terms are used.