27 November 2016 | TheLittleSongbird
Beautiful telling of a fascinating and important true story
The story of Seretse Khama and Ruth Williams is a fascinating one, and is of a good deal of importance and relevance now. 'A United Kingdom', which had such potential from the get go with the talent involved, doesn't disappoint and tells this story beautifully.
Admittedly, this kind of story has a fair few potential traps with the themes displayed, being very difficult to get the right tonal balance and to get it completely right. 'A United Kingdom' could easily have been preachy and over-sentimental with any messaging laid on too thick, any feel-good-factors coming over as corny, characters being one-dimensional and too black and white and the sentimentality being too hard to stomach. Luckily, almost all of those traps are avoided, making 'A United Kingdom a truly absorbing and moving film.
Do agree completely with all but one of the positive reviews, and can understand totally why some may not be as enamoured with it. Usually don't comment on previous reviews, as strictly it's not really supposed to be done here but is frequently done by many, but I too take issue with the content and tone of the top rated review, which is not a review and more a quite incoherent condemnation towards those who rate it low, with ridiculous conspiracy theories that do completely against what 'A United Kingdom' is really about. The number of 1 star ratings in a short space of time may raise eyebrows and can easily be questioned, even if the film didn't do much for me because the production values, directing, storytelling and acting are so well done and what it set out to do is to be admired it would not get less than a 4 or 5. This is all personal opinion of course, and do apologise for the irrelevance.
'A United Kingdom' is not perfect. Some of the dialogue at the beginning is too in your face and forced and the acting of the extras is a little dodgy agreed, can definitely see why anybody may be put off from continuing. Can also understand any criticisms of the supporting characters (the two lead characters are very compelling and beautifully written characters) being one-dimensional and too neatly black and white, the villains especially.
However, 'A United Kingdom' does look absolutely gorgeous, the period detail evocative, the scenery a feast for the eyes from the darker and more drab London location to the sweeping and colourful Botswana ones. Amma Asante directs remarkably and with assurance. Patrick Doyle provides another winner of a music score, coming from someone who has liked a lot of what he's done, full of beauty and emotional power in an understated way.
While not all the script works, much of it is intelligent and thought-provoking, never taking on too much of a heavy-handed tone while making its point clearly, having much to say about the conflicts and explores and balances them with skill and the over-sentimentality never obviously creeps in. The story is beautifully and absorbingly told, told with sensitivity, tension dealt with subtlety but also hard-hitting power and poignant emotion. Seretse and Ruth's love is evident throughout, David Oyelowo and Rosamund Pike's chemistry resonating believably and, even when apart in large stretches of the film, disconnect never creeps in despite the potential to.
Great performances all round, apart from reservations about the extras. Oyelowo plays Seretse with towering dignity and passionate sensitivity, his speeches very moving in a gut-wrenching and powerful sense. Pike, fresh from her exceptional career-best performance in the brilliant 'Gone Girl', gives one of her best performances and certainly more than just eye-candy (being one of the most naturally gorgeous actresses today), playing Ruth with calmness, sensitivity and commanding steel, Ruth's progressive attitude to race admirably portrayed and got under the skin well.
Jack Davenport makes for a slimy diplomat, and Tom Felton (who could easily have been out of place, was admittedly expecting him to be) is surprisingly effective and a long way from lightweight. Anastasia Hille and Nicholas Lyndhurst portray Ruth's parents' disapproval very well, Arnold Oceng is very good and there is a quite powerful scene with Pike and the very emotive actress who portrays the mother-in-law.
Not without its issues, but in summary 'A United Kingdom' is a very good film, telling a fascinating and important true story beautifully. 8/10 Bethany Cox