Based on a true story, A United Kingdom follows the lives of Seretse (David Oyelowo) and Ruth (Rosamund Pike) two people who fall in love, get married and start a family in the 1940’s. However, Seretse – over in England for education – is the Prince of Botswana and Ruth is the English daughter of a White man. Therefore when Seretse returns to his country with his new wife they face a whole lot of challenges from the local people, as well as the members of the British Government out there who are helping to keep peace between neighbouring countries. During the 1940’s apartheid was beginning to spread, and was particularly enforced in Botswana’s neighbours, therefore the fact that the Prince of Botswana gave his people a White Queen didn’t go down very well.
Believing this film to be a love story I was quite looking forward to it, however it’s a lot more political than I realised and as someone who doesn’t understand politics at the best of times, a lot of the dialogue went over my head! That’s not to say the film isn’t romantic, it starts off with Seretse and Ruth meeting and falling in love and there are a lot of emotional scenes as the two fight for their right to be together. The fact that it’s a true story also makes it more touching, and the credits include pictures of the real couple and what happened after the film ends.
Rosamund Pike is brilliant as Ruth, she really brings across the determination Ruth has to make her relationship work. She defiantly goes against her parents wishes and marries the man she loves, then follows him across the world leaving all she knows behind her as she is thrown into another way of living. She also faces a lot of hostility from her husband’s people as well as the few white women who live there too. She struggles to fit in anywhere and has only her new husband by her side. She is very vulnerable but there is a steely resolve to her character that shows she is capable of holding her own in important political discussions – especially when they involve her family. Rosamund is a brilliant actress and this role is no exception.
Although David Oyelowo has been in a lot of films over the years, this is probably his biggest role to date and he most definitely does not disappoint! Seretse passionately fights against his family’s wishes as he tries to convince them and his people that he is still fit to rule over them with a White Queen by his side. There are a lot of emotional speeches from Seretse and David shines in them. In these moments his acting is beautiful and you can really feel the heartfelt plea within the dialogue. Rosamund and David work perfectly alongside each other, their characters are totally believable and you will be rooting for them throughout.
There is a great supporting cast who just boost the two leads: Ruth’s family is headed up by the brilliant Nicholas Lyndhurst (Rodney from Only Fools and Horses) and her sister is played by Laura Carmichael, Lady Edith in Downton Abbey. Also appearing is Tom Felton aka Drako Malfoy from Harry Potter, and though he is unfortunately sporting a dodgy hairstyle and moustache, he gives a very good performance as one of the baddies of the film. This is a very different role to Draco and it’s great to see Tom excelling after the Potter films.
Overall, A United Kingdom is a great re-telling of a wonderfully uplifting story. Ruth and Seretse’s fight to stay together is incredibly moving and perfectly portrayed by Rosamund and David. I would really recommend this film, though it’s more political than I thought, but then the whole reason the couple are fighting to stay together is because of the politics surrounding Botswana at that time so it’s not surprising really. As Oscar season is just around the corner, hopefully A United Kingdom will be recognised, David in particular deserves something for his brilliant acting throughout.
(Also, the beginning scenes were filmed at the University of Greenwich, so it was lovely to see my old Uni on the big screen again).