A United Kingdom
|A United Kingdom|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Amma Asante|
|Screenplay by||Guy Hibbert|
by Susan Williams
|Music by||Patrick Doyle|
|Edited by||Jonathan Amos|
|Box office||$13.8 million|
A United Kingdom is a 2016 British biographical romantic drama film directed by Amma Asante and written by Guy Hibbert, based on the true-life romance between Sir Seretse Khama and his wife Ruth Williams Khama. David Oyelowo and Rosamund Pike portray Seretse and Ruth, respectively.
The film is based on the true story of the heir to the throne of Bechuanaland, Seretse Khama of the Bamangwato people, who studies law in London immediately after World War II. There he meets a white woman, Ruth Williams, whom he eventually marries, despite the protests of both their families and opposition from the British government, which is concerned about relations with South Africa and the stability of the entire region of southern Africa. The National Party government in South Africa fears that the marriage of a black king to a white woman in neighboring Bechuanaland will inspire unrest, and pressures the British government to end the marriage.
Khama's uncle, the Regent, demands that he end his marriage to Ruth, and marry a Bamangwato princess, a demand that Khama rejects. The British administrators use the dispute between the King and the Regent to argue that the marriage of Seretse and Ruth is "causing" unrest in Bechuanaland. Seretse discovers that the British have allowed a US mining corporation to prospect for precious stones, and is eager to make sure that, if anything is found, the exploitation of the country's resources should solely be done by the people of Bechuanaland.
Seretse wants his people to support him as king and manages to win their backing, while the British government decides to exile him from his own country. Meanwhile, Ruth has their baby in Bechuanaland and becomes accepted by the local people by "walking the road with them". When the British want to proclaim an administrator to the Bechuana people instead of their king, the tribe refuses to convene a meeting to do so. The prime minister, Clement Attlee, tells the backbencher Tony Benn, that Britain needs gold from South Africa and he is willing to pay any price such as attempting to destroy the Khamas' marriage to stay in the good graces of South Africa. During this time, diamonds are found and Seretse makes sure that the British government publicly declares that the Bechuana people have the sole right to exploit these resources.
Churchill promises, if he were elected in the 1951 general election, to lift the exile on Seretse, however, after his victory he turns the five-year ban into a lifelong one. In London, powerful people start supporting his claim, and he also receives support from the US government. Meanwhile, apartheid develops in South Africa and begins to overshadow Bechuanaland as well. Eventually, with the help of pressure from local people, he is allowed to return to Bechuanaland and negotiates its independence from the British. Seretse shows his uncle a leaked British government document showing he is qualified to be king, and that only opposition from South Africa is motivating the actions of the British government. Post-ending text reveals that Seretse oversees the creation of present-day Botswana, and that his son subsequently becomes the country's fourth elected president in 2008. It is revealed that Ruth and Seretse are buried side by side on a hilltop overlooking Serowe village, where they had lived for the remainder of their lives.
- David Oyelowo as Sir Seretse Khama
- Rosamund Pike as Ruth Williams Khama
- Terry Pheto as Naledi Khama, Seretse's younger sister
- Vusi Kunene as Tshekedi Khama, Seretse's uncle, who is Regent of the Bangwatho Kingdom
- Abena Ayivor as Ella Khama, Tshekedi's wife and Seretse's aunt
- Anton Lesser as Clement Attlee, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
- Jack Davenport as Alistair Canning, the British government representative in Southern Africa
- Jack Lowden as Tony Benn
- Tom Felton as Rufus Lancaster
- Charlotte Hope as Olivia Lancaster
- Nicholas Lyndhurst as George Williams, Ruth's father
- Anastasia Hille as Dot Williams, Ruth's mother
- Laura Carmichael as Muriel Williams-Sanderson, Ruth's sister
- Jessica Oyelowo as Lady Lilly Canning
Pike joined the cast in May 2015, with Asante joining shortly afterwards. In September 2015 Asante revealed that shooting would be split between Botswana and London, and that it would begin in October in preparation for a 2016 release coinciding with the 50th anniversary of independence in Botswana.
In October 2015 actors Jack Davenport and Tom Felton joined the cast. In November 2015 some filming took place around Hyde Park/Kensington Gardens including Imperial College Union. The cinematographer was Sam McCurdy and the production designer was Simon Bowles.
The film had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival on 9 September 2016. It will also screen at the BFI London Film Festival on 6 October 2016. Shortly after, Fox Searchlight Pictures acquired U.S distribution rights to the film. The film was released in the United Kingdom on 25 November 2016. It was scheduled to be released in the United States on 17 February 2017, but was pushed up to 10 February.
A United Kingdom grossed $3.9 million in the United States and Canada and $9.9 million in other countries for a worldwide total of $13.8 million, against a production budget of $14 million.
On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 84% based on 147 reviews, with an average rating of 6.8/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "Well-acted, solidly crafted, and all-around worthy, A United Kingdom presents an absorbing look at a singular true-life love story." On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 65 out of 100, based on 41 critics, indicating "generally favourable reviews".
Glen Kenny, in the New York Times, described the filmmaking as "staid" but with "an acute sense of pace". He was complimentary about the performances and described Oyelowo's as "remarkable, genuinely riveting work". In Time Out London, Tom Huddleston wrote that "David Oyelowo and Rosamund Pike are strong in this compelling and moving, if basic, true-life tale" but that the film "is just a little too cosy and sentimental for its own good."
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