For several years now, the screenplay of an amazing chapter in world history has been knocking around Hollywood waiting for the right team to make it. Then in recent years, BELLE was made…and SELMA was made…and GONE GIRL was made…
All of a sudden, the right team had the exposure and muscle to bring the story to light.
In post-war England, a young Englishwoman named Ruth (Rosamund Pike) meets a handsome black student named Seretse (David Oyelowo). After a few dates, the two fall madly in love…which is a bit of a problem. Seretse is the prince of the African nation of Bechuanaland, and whoever he marries will be the country’s next queen.
The relationship of Ruth and Seretse causes concern for the citizens of his homeland, the English government who protect them, and both of their extended families. How they navigate the waters ahead will take a lot of faith, love, and strength…and luckily, both are gifted with much of all three.
One of the things that makes this film so special is the way it puts both halves of this extraordinary couple into a difficult position. Any film could focus on Seretse facing exile or Ruth facing ostracization, but by balancing the both their struggles, we understand more fully what bonds them together as a couple, and the support they give each-other. Pike is wonderfully understated in this film, doing just as much without dialogue as she does when given a moment to speak. And Oyelowo continues his breakout; inspiring us just as much with fiery speeches as he does with quiet pleas.
The directing chops of Amma Assante serve this story well; she knows when to let the whole song play, and when to pick up the needle and play us the best bits. Her imagery is continuously stunning – be it the foggy nights of London, or the bright, dusty African villages. She always finds the emotional core of the story, both in the personal and political sphere.
So very much of our lives are political; so much that requires patience, negotiation, and good faith. That’s not a bad thing, it just requires trust and a lot of tenacity…qualities A UNITED KINGDOM has in excess.