There’s no real reason for A United Kingdom to be as bad as it is. It’s a great true story, and even for the most stone cold moviegoer, there’s something to be said about such a great story. Yet, the film misses almost every mark, and it starts with the central relationship; for a film that relies on a romance, we’re never given any sort of indication as to why these characters are in love, and given no reason to care about it’s domino effect on the rest of the story.
The film follows Ruth Williams (Rosamund Pike), a working class British woman who’s life is turned upside down when she falls in love with a charming student named Seretse Khama (David Oyelowo). The catch: Khama is the Prince and heir to the throne in Botswana, and the nation’s apartheid forbids him from marrying a white woman. Thus, the couple’s relationship is the starting point for a democratic revolution that shapes a nation.
The film rushes through the central relationship so quickly that we don’t get any sort of emotional quality to follow throughout the film. Even if the film had done a schmaltzy or cliche romance, we would have had something to latch onto. Unfortunately, as the film carries on, and the political turmoil gets more tepid and uninteresting, the lack of an emotional core becomes more and more apparent.
The main problem we see with this film is it’s lack of detail. We never get to see the African culture, we don’t get any tender and romantic moments, and the political elements feel more and more stale when the dialogue falls so flat. The film feels emotionally manipulative, and the flat, lifeless dialogue never gives any depth to the characters.
While Rosamund Pike feels completely uninterested and disenchanted from the script, David Oyelowo gives the role his all and is even able to overcome some of the weak dialogue. It’s an unfortunate that such a great story it botched on the screen, but it’s simply enough to just be based on real events. There’s got to be a consistency to the story and a depth to the characters, and unfortunately A United Kingdom lacks in both. Grade: C-