*Warning: Spoilers from the film ahead.
Based on a true story, A United Kingdom (2016) is a powerful story about interracial love during the 1940s between the prince of Bechuanaland, Seretse Khama, and Ruth William, a London office worker, that defied opposition from family, the British and South African governments and the apartheid, and ultimately changed an entire country.
Directed by Amma Asante, the film recounts the story of Prince Seretse Khama (David Oyelowo) of then-Bechuanaland and Ruth Williams (Rosamund Pike), a London office worker, at a party.
The film opens with Seretse’s uncle writing him a letter, telling him it’s time to come back home. On parallel scenes, we see Seretse boxing in London. He has spent years getting his education as a preparation to become king of Bechuanaland.
They meet at a party when Ruth approaches him after hearing him talk against the apartheid system and in favor of inclusion and equality. He then invites her to another party, and when walking her home from it, he tells her he is a prince and needs to return to his country soon. They decide to keep seeing each other. In a few montage of scenes, we see them courting.
Trouble starts soon after Seretse asks Ruth to marry him, in a cute scene featuring London’s “Big Ben,” and Ruth says yes, even if it means moving to Bechuanaland with him. This only tell us that the obstacles will come from outside sources.
The first hurdle comes from their families. Seretse’s friend reprimands him for taking the decision to ask her without consulting with his uncle first. On the following scene, Ruth’s father is disowning her.
The British government then interferes, unsuccessfully, to prevent the wedding from happening. Seretse and Ruth marry and move to Bechuanaland.
But problems won’t stop there. The rest of the film will see them face many more challenges with Seretse’s tribe and own uncle, the British and South African government, as well as segregation issues that will even keep them apart for many years. It does have a happy ending, though.
The film streaks a too-familiar theme in today’s society, where even though the apartheid and segregation are no longer happening, we, as a society, still struggle with inclusion and diversity issues. It’s an awakening for people when they are able to recognize same issues in the film happening today. As Seretse says, the ones controlling are “trying to define us based on their rules, their idea of the world and how they see it.” A United Kingdom is definitely worth watching for a story of how love can trump hate, a message much-needed nowadays.
You find A United Kingdom and other great films at Liberty Hall in Lawrence, KS.