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A United Kingdom: A beautiful view of a piece of untold history

Rosamund Pike as Ruth Williams and David Oyelowo as Seretse Khama in the film A United Kingdom.

Stanislav Honzik. © 2017 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

3 out of 4 stars

Title
A United Kingdom
Written by
Guy Hibbert
Directed by
Amma Asante
Starring
David Oyelowo and Rosamund Pike
Classification
PG
Country
USA
Language
English

The storytelling is straightforward, even a bit square. But the story is fascinating – and true. In 1948 England, Seretse Khama (David Oyelowo), a prince of Bechuanaland (now Botswana), marries a white office worker, Ruth Williams (Rosamund Pike). Her racist family rejects her. His relatives scorn her. But the main villain here is the British government, personified by Alistair Canning (Jack Davenport), England's representative in Southern Africa.

South Africa is busy constructing apartheid and doesn't want a mixed-race couple ruling the country just north. Britain cares more about South Africa's diamonds than they do its human rights. The ensuing battle tests the lovers in every possible way.

Director Amma Asante (Belle) is carving a niche for herself, making gorgeous-looking cinema from untold histories. Her best asset here is Oyelowo. The quieter and more dignified Seretse becomes, the more riveting Oyelowo is to watch. In Selma, he soared to oratorical heights, delivering Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I have a dream" speech. Here he has to deliver another, albeit quieter doozy. Deliver, he does.

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