A United Kingdom Review
Colonialism is still affecting the world today. It has become an unfortunate truth that in global history the discussions of a tiny island nation focus on the terrible impact it had on the rest of the world. A film that explores both the micro and macro effects of British Empire Foreign Policy is 2016's A United Kingdom, directed by Amma Asante and starring David Oyelowo and Rosamund Pike, being released on Blu-Ray by Pathe and Twentieth Century Fox on the 20th of March.
Based on real events, A United Kingdom follows the whirlwind romance between Seretse Khama (played by David Oyelowo) and Ruth Williams (Rosamund Pike). However, their relationship causes a lot of problems due to Seretse being the prince of Bechuanaland (now known as Botswana) and is frowned upon by both families, the British government and the new South African Prime Minister presiding over the birth of apartheid.
Marion Koob, upon reviewing the film at the London Film Festival gave A United Kingdom a somewhat respectable 6 out of 10. I am inclined to agree. The film itself is an enjoyable if somewhat simplistic love story that is bolstered by the important struggles against racism and colonialism that stand in the way of the couple.
The central performances by Oyelowo and Pike are captivating and intensely entertaining. The condescending posh villains of the piece, played to face punching perfection by Jack Davenport of Pirates of the Caribbean fame and Draco Malfoy himself, Tom Felton.
Despite these great performances and worthy story, the film itself is aggravatingly average. Notwithstanding the fact that A United Kingdom is well made, there are no continuity errors, obvious photography gaffs or the breaking of diegetic space; the cinematography, score and editing fade into the background, and apart from a particularly satisfying line about a glass of sherry the dialogue is also mainly forgettable.
I think that Marian identifies a fundamental problem with the film in that it fails to evenly divide attention between the wider ramifications of the relationship and the interior life that Ruth and Seretse share. It is a challenging feat to equally provide a satisfying exploration of the micro and the macro, that while it should be applauded that A United Kingdon attempted it, the film ultimately fails.
Overall despite this problem, it was a perfectly fine film. It is like a return to an old-fashioned melodrama with sweeping love story and almost manufactured Hollywood happy ending (despite the fact that it did indeed turn out like that in real life) and in my opinion, especially today, we do need feel-good romance films, especially ones as well made as this.
The packaging of A United Kingdom has been managed by Pathe and Twentieth Century Fox, and for the most part, they have done a great job. I couldn't notice any digital errors in video or audio, and the high definition scenic shots of Africa look magnificent.
The disc functions as it should, the menus are organised well, and the options are clearly labelled. Similarly, the pop-up menu is unobtrusive and just as navigable as the main menu. Subtitles are also clear, and there is an option for audio description for hard of sight.
The disc is definitely well made and presents the film in its best possible light.
The United Kingdom comes with a few little bonus treats that go someway to explore how the film was made and the story of Ruth and Seretse. These include a Making of Featurette, a Filming in Botswana Featurette, the Legacy of Seretse and Ruth, the London Film Festival Premiere Featurette and an Original Theatrical Trailer.
Though all of these extras do provide additional details most of them repeat themselves, as they deal with a lot of the same things. None of them go into a great amount of detail of how the film was made or how important Ruth and Seretse were to global politics. Instead, the extras on the Blu-Ray release of A United Kingdom feel more like promotional TV spots selling the film, which is silly because if you are already watching them, then you have already bought the Blu-Ray.