Most of the films that have dealt with race relations in recent years have been focused on stories here in America, but “Belle” director Amma Asante has taken her lens overseas for her latest film, “A United Kingdom”. Adapted for the screen by Guy Hibbert from Susan Williams’ book “Colour Bar,” this is the story of Seretse Khama (David Oyelowo), who is set to take the throne of his home country of Bechuanaland (now Botswana) after his schooling in London is complete. While there, he meets and falls in love with Ruth Williams (Rosamund Pike). With the colors of their skin separating them, they not only fight to be accepted in London but also to Seretse’s people, including his own family who try to get him to give up his rights to the throne over it.
This story, while beautifully told, truly suffers from some pacing issues. This runs a solid two hours and feels every bit of it. Granted, I would be more than willing to watch this cast read a phone book, but this story almost collapses under its own weight. Personally, I would have like to have seen more time spent on the exile of Seretse, the legal procedures involved as he and his legal team take on Parliament, and the effects it had on Ruth, who is trying to hold it together to try to win over the people she has now become the de facto queen of over their courtship, which takes up about the first quarter of the film. The pace picks up a little too late for me, which made the third act seem rushed so the rest of the story could be told. Oyelowo and Pike are absolutely perfect in the lead roles, with an almost natural chemistry between them. There is also a nice turn by current cast member of “The Flash” Tom Felton as one of the go-betweens to the British Empire.
In the wake of films like “Loving,” “Hidden Figures,” and “Free State of Jones,” “A United Kingdom” is one that could have gotten lost in the shuffle in 2016, so a 2017 release for this film should get it the recognition that it deserves. It may be a bit early in the year for any awards consideration, but a re-release in the fall could help it.