FilmReview

Review: ‘A United Kingdom’ Boasts Great Performances, but Little Else

Casey Campbell ’19 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer

A United Kingdom, Amma Asante’s new film, was loosely held together by great performances, but plagued by a plodding story and inconsistent pacing. It tells the true story of a prince from Botswana (David Oyelowo) who married a white woman from London (Rosamund Pike), and the racial societal struggles they endured throughout the 1940s and 50s.

Oyelowo’s Seretse Khama is played with passionate restraint, having to overcome racial injustices both in his college city of London and at his home in Bechuanaland, Botswana. The speeches he gave were stirring and emotional, and his more internal conflicts were delivered through physicality. Pike’s Ruth Williams was bold and charming, yet conflicted with being accepted at neither her birth home or African adopted home.

Rosamund Pike and David Oyelowo in A United Kingdom. Photo Credit: Fox Searchlight Pictures.
Rosamund Pike and David Oyelowo in A United Kingdom. Photo Credit: Fox Searchlight Pictures.

Together, Seretse and Ruth were perfectly charismatic and were an absolute joy to watch. They were easily the strongest part of the film. Unfortunately, due to the plot, they aren’t together for nearly enough of the runtime. The supporting cast fills their roles well, with very villainous, sometimes cartoonish performances from Jack Davenport and Tom Felton.

The film was never bad, but it was also never great. It was all very competently made, but it was stuck in base mediocrity where the true story deserved better. From the start, the film races to get its characters to Africa with short and choppy expository scenes frequent during the opening 15 minutes. When they get away from London, the pace evens out and the characters get more room for depth and development. A distinction that can be made with this film is in the romance, and how director Asante stays away from melodrama and crafts a genuine love story.

Jack Davenport and Tom Felton in A United Kingdom. Photo Credit: Fox Searchlight Pictures.
Jack Davenport and Tom Felton in A United Kingdom. Photo Credit: Fox Searchlight Pictures.

The main problems stem from the script. These characters are based on real people with real stories, so the script should have been tight and true. The script was lacking a plot for the most part. There was the initial romance of the leads, followed by their tumultuous time dealing with the ignorance of racists. This may be due to the film being a romantic political drama, in which there are two heavy subjects going up against each other. The story it tells is abundantly important, especially in today’s volatile political climate. If only it could have done so in a more compelling and tidy way.

Overall, the film was okay, but given the gravity of the story, being just “okay” was a detriment. Even the score was largely forgettable, if not completely understated and generic. Great performances certainly pulled the script from obscurity, but this isn’t one that needs to be seen in the theater.

Overall Grade: C

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