A United Kingdom

Out Now On-Demand

The true story of a love that shook an empire.

British period biopic starring David Oyelowo (Selma) as Botswanan prince Seretse Khama and Oscar nominee Rosamund Pike (Gone Girl) as Ruth, together a mixed race couple whose marriage causes an international stir.

"London, 1947. Jazz lovers Seretse Khama and Ruth Williams meet at a Missionary Society dance. The evening is electric, perhaps in part because both know their attraction is fraught. She's an accomplished office worker, and white. He is a charming law student, and black. What he can't tell her at first is that he's also a prince, first in line to the throne of Bechuanaland (today's Botswana). But despite the obstacles, it's love.

"When the time comes for Seretse to return home to lead his people's independence movement, he impulsively proposes to Ruth. She accepts, but no one else does — not her family nor his. Neither does South Africa's government, which controls uranium Britain badly needs, and stands on the eve of making apartheid a national policy. They won't tolerate an interracial couple leading a neighbouring country, so Britain begins to work against what once seemed like the simple love between Seretse and Ruth." (Toronto International Film Festival)

Trailers

Directed by

Written by

Drama

111mins

Rating: PG Mild themes, violence and coarse language

UK

Total Film (UK)

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Oyelowo and Pike capture their characters' courage, but never the romance that kept their belief burning.

Empire (UK)

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It glides romantically along on the surface while political turmoil boils away underneath. Its plea for tolerance isn't subtle, but it's a story that deserves to be told.

TimeOut (UK)

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Exactly the film you imagine it's going to be: handsome, honey-coloured and simplistic.

Hollywood Reporter

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A rousing true love story brings African history to life.

Variety (USA)

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Treats their love story like another Disney princess movie, reducing the drama to a series of polite disagreements between the couple and the cardboard officiates who opposed their union.

The Guardian (UK)

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...this movie has candour, heartfelt self-belief, and an unfashionable conviction that love conquers all - though not immediately.

BBC

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It's pleasant and honourable, and it makes a worthwhile point. But it's strangely lacking in urgency, a period piece that never breaks out of its period.

Stuff.co.nz (James Croot)

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Elegant, intelligent, evocative and emotion-inducing cinema.

NewsHub.co.nz (Kate Rodger)

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For those in need of a gentle thought-provoking romantic distraction from the festive rush, you'd do far worse...

NZ Herald (Francesca Rudkin)

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It just misses the epic impact it's striving for.

This finely crafted portrait of love between a black king and a white woman is the outstanding bio-pic of 2017

A United Kingdom (2016) is an historical bio-pic of forbidden love and political intrigue. Beautifully filmed on location in exotic Botswana with a top-tier cast, it tells the true story of British colonial exploitation in a small powerless country and an inconvenient romance that threatened the Empire’s strategic interests in South Africa in the 1940s.

At a time of heightened post-war racial tension, Seretse Khama (David Oyelowo) is recalled from Oxford to assume his hereditary throne as King of Bechuanaland (now Botswana). Soon before departing he meets and falls in love with office worker Ruth Williams (Rosamund Pike), telling her he cannot leave England without her. Within days they are married against the wishes of both families and the British Government. His small impoverished nation is under self-interested British rule that does everything in its power to prevent the couple from assuming the throne as King and Queen. When diamond deposits are discovered, the nation hopes for a better life for its people but Britain has other priorities. The couple are manipulated like pawns on a chessboard, and Britain successfully stalls Seretse’s plans to lead his people.

This is a finely crafted portrayal of the love between a black king and a white woman. It could have become mired in melodrama but the acting performances are superbly restrained. David Oyelowo has an Obama style of oratory and captures the manner and bearing of a king desperate to help his people. He portrays his first and only experience of love with depth and authenticity and his proposal scene is delightful. Rosamund Pike is convincingly expressive across an emotional roller-coaster where a young British girl is so trusting of love she can leave her country for a harsh, unknown, and beautiful land. Far from a meek office girl, she rises to meet her challenges with strength and dignity. An excellent support cast of well-known actors play British arrogance and condescension so well that audiences jeer when their political games are thwarted.

There are two stories intertwined in this film and for it to work both have to be self-sustaining and in balance. A love story inside a political drama is not an easy mix, but excellent directing keeps both stories working together to produce an engaging and inspiring film. It also shows that great moments in history are made up of ordinary people doing extraordinary things. The postscript lets us know that Botswana survived British political interference to become a successful self-governing nation with Seretse as its first president. This is the outstanding historical bio-pic of the year.