A United Kingdom
|A United Kingdom|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Amma Asante|
|Screenplay by||Guy Hibbert|
|Based on||Colour Bar|
by Susan Williams
|Music by||Patrick Doyle|
|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 Seretse Khama, heir to the throne of Bechuanaland (later Botswana, of which he was President), 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 an Englishwoman, 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, as it was in the process of making such a marriage illegal, and demands that the British government prevents the marriage, as do the governments of South West Africa and Rhodesia.
Khama's uncle, the Regent, also asks Khama to end his marriage and instead marry a Bamangwato princess, which Khama rejects. The British administrators use the dispute to argue that the marriage is causing unrest. 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.
Khama wants his people's support and wins their backing, upon which the British government decides to exile him. Meanwhile, Ruth gives birth to their baby and becomes accepted by the local people by "walking the road with them". When the British want to replace with king with an administrator, the tribe refuses to convene the necessary meeting. The British prime minister, Clement Attlee, tells backbencher Tony Benn that Britain needs South Africa's gold and destroying the Khamas' marriage is a price worth paying. Meanwhile, diamonds are found in Bechuanaland and Khama ensures the British government acknowledges their sovereign ownership by the Bechuana people.
Winston Churchill promises, if elected, to lift Khama's exile term of five years, but instead makes it permanent. However, powerful people in London and the US government support Khama's case. 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. Khama shows his uncle a leaked British government document showing he is qualified to be king, and that British government hostility is based only on opposition from South Africa. A postscript reveals that Khama was elected as the first president of present-day Botswana, that their son becomes the country's fourth elected president in 2008 and that Ruth and Khama are buried together 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.
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 150 reviews, with an average rating of 6.8/10. The website'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, 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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- Pederson, Erik (30 September 2016). "Fox Searchlight Bringing 'A United Kingdom' To North America". Deadline Hollywood. Penske Business Media. Retrieved 30 September 2016.
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- Kenny, Glen (9 February 2017). "Review: 'A United Kingdom' With Love That Tested Racial Tolerance". The New York Times. The New York Times Company. Retrieved 21 October 2017.
- Huddleston, Tom (10 September 2016). "A United Kingdom". Time Out London. Time Out Group. Retrieved 21 October 2017.