A United Kingdom review

A United Kingdom is in cinemas now
A United Kingdom is in cinemas now

A rich slice of political history and a true story I wasn't familiar with, A United Kingdom documents the interracial love story between an African king and a British woman who first meet and fall in love in London in the late 1940s.

When the young Seretse Khama is called upon to fulfill his duties as King of Bechuanaland (which would later become the Republic of Botswana), the newlyweds will face fierce resistance from all quarters; her family, his family, his people, and most powerful of all - the British Government.

These are tumultuous times - just across the border is South Africa, in power a government turning years of racial segregation into law, laws which would uphold their new system of Apartheid.

For a story over half a century old, the themes of politics and race are as timely now as they've ever been and Amma Asante was certainly the filmmaker to explore them, something she does with assurance and accessibility.

Her casting choices for the two lead roles are top notch and between them create the authentic chemistry vital to the core of this story.

Rosamund Pike is former Lloyds clerk Ruth Williams, David Oyelowo is Khama - both bringing class and an impressive dramatic heft to proceedings.

The supporting cast includes Downton Abbey's Laura Carmichael along with Tom Felton and Jack Davenport, who all​ ​convincingly​ lend their considerable talent to the storytelling here.

There's no questioning the worthiness of this story, I found it fascinating. But distracting me somewhat was an almost naive earnestness to the delivery, which added to the impact in some places but overwhelmed it entirely in others.

Events such as these, both political and personal, are momentous enough in fact to speak for themselves and should be allowed to; an overbearingly sentimental orchestral score was both unnecessary and distracting.

This film can't be viewed simply as a love story and nor should it. All love stories need their trials and tribulations and this King and his would-be Queen certainly have plenty of those.

For those in need of a gentle thought-provoking romantic distraction from the festive rush, you'd do far worse than hiding yourself away in a dark quiet cinema free of the gift shopping horde, the sound of ringing tills and tooting horns of Christmas gridlock.

Three stars.

     A United Kingdom:: Director: Amma Asante :: Starring: David Oyelowo, Rosamund Pike, Jack Lowden, Terry Pheto, Vusi Kunene, Jack Davenport, Tom Felton, Charlotte Hope:: Rating: M - Violence:: Running Time: 111 minutes:: Release Date: December 8, 2016