A United Kingdom – film review

Summary : London 1947: a young progressive secretary, Ruth Williams (Rosamund Pike) frequents, with her sister Muriel (Laura Carmichael), the trendy circles of the city. It is during one of these evenings that she will meet Serestse Khama (David Oyelowo), a young African from Bechuanaland, a British protectorate (which later became Botswana). He continued his studies in Great Britain, before returning to his country where he was called to be king.

Critical : Like what: good stories do not necessarily make good films! It is true that the atypical journey of this mixed couple is totally edifying: a union of this nature in England immediately after the war, still colonial and openly racist, was a challenge. Moreover, the man is destined to be king and returns to his country, a blonde clinging to his arm. There, the protagonists will be confronted with discrimination, in another form, of an important part of the Bechuanalandais. Including in the hero’s own family. The two characters will be forced to return to the United Kingdom where Serestse Khama will learn that he has been banished for life from his nation by Churchill, who, before his re-election in 1951, had made him the promise to restore his power.

The couple will hold and win their case after years of proceedings. This is the beautiful lesson of this story.

Now to illustrate it, we are dealing with a totally bland and unoriginal staging. The twists, inspired by real events, seem to come from the purest American melodrama. This cinematographic treatment makes events that are nevertheless very real improbable: we will mention the initially hostile attitude of the Bechuanalanders who, suddenly, becomes favorable to the couple, without our understanding why, the spectacular reversal of Ruth’s father, who suddenly discovers that his daughter, whom he once disowned, has become extraordinary, and will even shed a tear. Finally, note the portrait of British officials, so British cantors of the Commonwealth. Their evocation is caricature.

As far as the interpretation is concerned, if Rosamund Pike is irreproachable as often, David Oyelowo, a black British actor, is sorely lacking in charisma to play a statesman, who should not lack it.

Shame. This relatively insipid film raises an interesting, little-known and not particularly brilliant part of contemporary British history.

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