Monday, 28 November 2016

Film: 'A United Kingdom'

There's no doubting the inspirational true story behind this, but I did find the film's treatment of it needlessly manipulative when it could just as easily, and more effectively, have been left to speak for itself.

It's London 1947 and Prince Seretse Khama of Botswana (David Oyelowo) is on the verge of returning to his home country as ruler, his uncle there having ruled as regent while the prince was growing up incognito in England. 
One evening at a dance he notices he's being eyed up by a young lady (Rosamund Pike) and he returns the favour, they dancing together. After a night of getting on famously (dancing and talking only) when he takes her back to her home he tells her that he can't see her again because of his circumstances which he explains. She refuses to accept that they can't go on despite who he is and so they carry on dating while they can, with her family's approval  (sister enthusiastically, mother tacitly) but not her father's - and also in the face of a warning from a supercilious British diplomacy, South Africa being next door to the prince's domain, and which has just implemented apartheid, it's vital to keep that country on-side for reasons of global relations. 
The young couple are soon married and she returns to Africa with him, where they have to cope with native hostility, led by his uncle, because of his bringing a white woman into the royal line meaning, of course, that any offspring will be mixed race. 

The two leading characters I found just too perfect to believe. They both seemed to lead exemplary flawless lives in terms of resolute determination in representing propriety in the face of hypocritical racist attitudes. Maybe they were so in reality, though I doubt that anyone could have had such saintly forbearance as this couple are shown to do in the face of the blatant prejudices (from both sides) that they come up against. I suppose it could have been that which bound them even closer together.

In the London scenes there is one instance shown of the couple being harangued and assaulted on the street because of their being black and white. In the 1950s when I was growing up such couples were absolutely never seen - whether because they were very rare or the pair were too afraid to be seen publicly together, I don't know. But in this film they are depicted openly in close loving contact without surrounding comment apart from this single incident. Perhaps around this time London had already progressed further than the north of England where I was.

The shots of African scenery are superb, fulfilling widescreen expectations. However, and as so often, I could have done with a lot less of the soundtrack music always pointing one in a certain emotional direction. Completely unnecessary when it was all in the story anyway. 

It's only the third film of director Amman Assante, her 'Belle' of 2013, I found a bit more interesting than this latest, though that also not quite satisfactory.

This film has had some very positive reviews which I can't share. If I wanted to see a hagiography then I'd prefer to have been warned it was to be so. On the other hand, it was quite educational to be told of a piece of history of which I hadn't been aware...................5.5.


  1. Since i'd never heard the story, and because I find Oyelowo a tremendous actor--and Pike is nothing to sneeze at--I may search this one at our closest arthouse cinema.

    1. David O is hot, Bob, something I've always thought from the time he was exclusively a stage actor. However, I wasn't totally convinced of there being an overpowering passion between him and Pike on screen.
      I'm sure that very few people indeed know of this story as I too didn't. Perhaps it was deliberately buried as being somewhat embarrassing for the Brits in the light of subsequent history. It definitely needs to be told. So do look out for the film.

    2. Ray,
      An interesting bit of history I wasn't aware of either. I will pass on this movie though. Sounds like a guilt inducing movie which I don't find entertaining at all.

    3. It's one of those pieces that one sees through eyes of a different period, Ron - and hopefully now a more progressive one. But I agree that it's difficult to do this kind of thing without getting all preachy about the issues, and how we ought to tut-tut at our forebears' actions and prejudices.

  2. That's very cool. I'd loooove 2B your close friend in Seventh-Heaven... yet, first, you gotta wanna repent. This life doesnt last, Raymond (a cool name BTW - reminds me of the Ramones). Tella youse what you oughta do, Daymond-Who-Doesnt-Wanna-See-The-DarkOnight-Foreva...

    The more you shall honor Me,
    the more I shall bless you.
    -the Infant Jesus of Prague
    (<- Czech Republic, next to Russia)

    trustNjesus ALWAYS, bro,
    and wiseabove to Seventh-Heaven...
    cuzz the only other realm aint too cool.
    God bless your indelible soul.