A United Kingdom
You know how disappointed we all were by Loving? It was a true story about an interracial marriage that lead to some laws being changed. This is an even more interesting real life story (despite them taking a lot of liberties with how things really happened). Unfortunately, just like Loving, it was boring.
Amma Asante gave us the enjoyable Belle a few years ago. So the African-American, former actress, is capable of directing. It’s strange that she opted for one-dimensional characters and shoddy editing.
David Oyelowo, who was terrific as Martin Luther King, Jr. in Selma, also delivered some powerful speeches and dialogue in this. He’s Seretse Khama, and at a fancy dinner party, he makes eyes with Ruth Williams (Rosamund Pike). Unfortunately, she’s given a lot less to do in this movie. She smiles, looks concerned, and arches her eyebrows a lot. In real life, they courted for about a year. In this, they rush things along and after a few dates, Khama proposes. This quick courtship doesn’t get us as invested in the relationship as we should be. We certainly root for them as they’re going through their plight, but all we were shown were a few rather bland dates in the London fog. Certainly not enough for audiences to fall in love with these two.
It would be enough drama if a couple in the post-war ‘40s in London had to deal with a relationship their families were against. This couple returns to his homeland of Bechuanaland, and Ruth has to deal a bit with discrimination. You see, he’s going to be the King of Bechuanaland (later named Botswana).
The script was provided by Guy Hibbert (who did the surprisingly interesting Eye in the Sky). In this, the characters aren’t fleshed out, despite the fact that the actors give impassioned performances. It’s nice to see Pike can play sweet, since we saw how demonic she can get in roles (remember Gone Girl?). The couple does have chemistry together, and you feel bad for them when they’re apart. It’s just that watching this Brit period piece becomes a long slog. In the middle sections, when the British government is banishing Seretse from Bechuanaland, it reminded me of those times in school when you’re bored by a history lesson that a teacher is droning on about. I was more interested in how Ruth’s parents all of a sudden accept this relationship? The father told her if she married him, they’d have nothing to do with her. We get no explanation on how he came around. There’s Seretse’s uncle and sister who initially dislike the white, working-class Ruth. They’re won over rather easily.
There were lots of stories in this that could’ve been so interesting to explore; poverty in Africa, the rise of apartheid, and a rather romantic love story. Instead, the love story was rushed, the movie was boring, filled with expository dialogue and trite scenarios. It’s almost like Disney made this [I’m thinking of Queen of Katwe].
At the end of the film we’re told of what becomes of these two and the things they’ve accomplished. It’’s immensely more interesting.
There are many one-note performances by the supporting cast, which includes Laura Carmichael, Jack Davenport, Tom Felton of Harry Potter fame, and David Oyelowo’s real life partner in a bi-racial marriage, Jessica Oyelowo. She basically stands around scowling.
This gets 2 stars out of 5.