Published: 15/11/2016 10:30 - Updated: 15/11/2016 10:42

IFF Review: A United Kingdom

A United Kingdom
A United Kingdom

REVIEW: A United Kingdom (12A)

By Calum Macleod

* * *

AS with last year’s Brooklyn, this year’s Inverness Film Festival opener was a mainstream piece of period filmmaking that was a long way from being the most challenging film on the programme, but its Wednesday night screening could hardly have been better timed.

Coming less than 24 hours after the shock of Donald Trump’s presidential win, this was, as one audience member was heard to say, just what was needed, especially given some of the rather retrograde racial attitudes found among some of his

Amma Asante’s film presents an uplifting story of overcoming prejudice and the struggle for an African nation’s rights.

Prince Seretse Khama  (David Oyelowo), in London to study law, falls in love with Ruth (Rosamund Pike), but as the king in waiting of the British Protectorate of Bechuanaland (modern day Botswana) their relationship is seen as a provocation to neighbouring South Africa, which has just embarked on its policy of apartheid, and even a potential pretext for invasion.

To an impoverished post-war Britain, dependent on South African gold and diamonds, Seretse and Ruth’s relationship is a potentially destabilising force and when pleas and threats fail to end the relationship, Sereste is forced into exile.

Oyelowo’s dignified, passionate Seretse is a flipside to his Oscar-nominated turn as Martin Luther King in Selma, a hereditary leader standing up for his people’s rights in colonial Africa, rather than a man who finds himself a leader in divided America, but given the added context of a true love story, while Sereste’s fight is given an added incentive by the possibilities of using untapped mineral wealth to turn one of Africa’s poorest nations into one of its most prosperous.

He and Pike make a good couple, although in truth they are probably 15 years too old to accurately play the young lovers, and the dramatic possibilities of Ruth’s potential rejection by her husband’s people are quickly overturned with one stirring speech from Seretse and Ruth’s natural decency.

Well known faces give good support, including Nicholas Lyndhurst in a surprising dramatic cameo as Ruth’s conservative dad and  Jack Davenport and Tom Felton occupying the bad guy roles as devious and duplicitous colonial beurocrats.

Who for? You could come for the romance, you could come for the politics and the history, either way anyone a touch more sensitive than the average Trump supporter was likely to be entertained.

Best quote: Prince Seretse Khama: “I will never achieve anything if I leave my heart here.”

Quick review: When the heir of the African kingdom of Bechuanaland (David Oyelowo) falls in love with English woman Ruth (Rosamund Pike), their marriage defies not only the social conventions of the post-war world, but sparks a diplomatic crisis that puts pressure on the young monarch to choose between his kingdom and his wife.

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