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Film / A United Kingdom

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A United Kingdom is a 2016 British Biographical Romantic Drama film directed by Amma Asante, written by Guy Hibbert, and starring David Oyelowo and Rosamund Pike.

It depicts the true story of how Seretse Khama (Oyelowo), the Prince of Bechuanaland (now Botswana) meets and falls in love with London office worker Ruth Williams (Pike) in the 1940's. But their interracial relationship is not approved of by either of their families, nor by the British and South African governments. Seretse and Ruth must defy family, apartheid and the British Empire to return from an imposed exile to their African kingdom, and assume power after independence.

Has nothing to do with the United Kingdom.

This film contains examples of:

  • Adaptational Attractiveness: The real Ruth Williams is far plainer and more average-looking than the Grace Kelly-esque beauty Rosamund Pike.
  • Apathetic Citizens: Ruth collapses on her way to the post office. Not only does no one come to her aid, they walk away .
  • Artistic License – History: The film makes it seem as though the couple had a Fourth-Date Marriage, when in Real Life, they dated for a year. Then it makes their exile in London seem much shorter than the 8 years it was and omits the birth of their second son, which happened during this time.
  • Based on a True Story: Depicts the Real Life love story of Sir Seretse Khama (the Prince of Bechuanaland (now Botswana)) and his wife, Londoner Ruth Williams Khama.
  • Chekhov's Skill: Our first glimpse of Seretse is during a boxing match with a classmate. He loses, but his abilities prove quite useful when a trio of drunken racist punks attack him and Ruth while they're walking home from a date.
  • City Mouse: Seretse's uncle tauntingly asks him, "How long before the village dust gets in her eyes?", indicating that race aside, it's only a matter of time before Ruth gets fed up with the lack of modern facilities and conveniences and returns home. While she does struggle initially, she is determined to adjust, and when she learns she's pregnant, refuses to go to a better equipped hospital in South Africa, saying, "It's important that I show my faith in the doctors here."
  • Compressed Adaptation: Seretse and Ruth dated for a year and later spent 8 years exiled in London. The movie makes both periods seem much shorter.
  • Defrosting Ice Queen: Seretse's sister takes an instant dislike to Ruth, but softens as time goes on, eventually befriending her.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: The reactions of nearly everyone regarding the couple's interracial relationship and marriage are pretty much what would be expected of the time.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: Benn and Brockley urge Attlee to end Seretse's exile after Churchill declares his intention to do so in the run-up to the General Election, effectively signalling the British government's support of interracial marriage in Africa against the opposition of the South African government. This calls to mind similar talking points about the Conservatives rather Labour having been the party to pass same-sex marriage into law in England and Wales in 2014:
    Brockley: It will be an almighty humiliation if a Tory government fulfils a responsibility that should have been ours.
  • Double-Meaning Title/ Meaningful Name: "A united kingdom", referring to both where Ruth is from and what Seretse is trying to achieve back home.
  • Falling-in-Love Montage: A very brief one, but it fits this trope just the same.
  • Happily Married: Against all odds, they are indeed.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: The British Commission strips Seretse of his ruling power due to the controversy over his marriage. Soon after, they offer to send the couple back to Britain to sort out the matter. They realize that this is a ploy to get them permanently exiled and decide that Ruth will stay behind. When the British officer arrives to take Seretse to the airport, the tribesmen surround Ruth to prevent her leaving. The officer angrily demands that Seretse tell the men to step aside, but Seretse innocently declares that since he's been stripped of his power, he no longer has the authority to command the men.
  • Hope Spot: An especially cruel one. Ruth, Seretse, and the entire tribe awaits the election results, as Winston Churchill has promised to end Seretse's exile if he's elected. When he is. . . he extends the ban from five years to life.
  • Ironic Echo: A condescending British official offers Seretse a sherry as he's telling him that he will be banned from from his home country for five years. When Seretse is finally able to return, he does the same thing.
  • Jerkass:
    • Sir Alastair and Lancaster, two utterly smug, smarmy, bigoted British officials.
    • Winston Churchill is depicted as such, after publicly declaring that if he was elected he would end Seretse's five year banishment, he wins the election and then makes Seretse’s banishment permanent.
  • Jerkass Has a Point:
    • The Prime Minister who refuses to interfere in Seretse's situation sneers at America's hypocritical condemnation of his inaction, citing the country's Jim Crow laws.
    • The two snooty British ladies who urge Ruth to go to a better equipped hospital in South Africa truthfully point out that she could be risking her and her baby's health if she doesn't.
  • Love at First Sight: Ruth and Seretse's reaction to each other.
  • Maligned Mixed Marriage: The relationship between African Seretse and white Ruth is not approved of by either of their families, nor by the British and South African governments, leading them to be exiled by both.
  • Parental Marriage Veto: Ruth's father threatens to disown her should she marry Seretse, and his uncle is so determined that it not happen that not only does he forbid it, he takes legal means to stop it.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Seretse's sister and aunt give Ruth a blistering one when she arrives, telling her that she doesn't belong there.
  • Scenery Porn: 1940's London and Botswana.
  • Social Climber: Seretse's uncle snidely implies that Ruth is this, asking, "Would she have even looked at you if you weren't a king?"
  • Spiritual Successor: To Belle (2013), also directed by Amma Asante, and also focusing on a historical racial story.
  • Uptown Girl:
    • Gender-inverted: Seretse's romance is an heir apparent, while Ruth is an office worker. Racial difference aside, this is one of the other reasons why one of his friends denounces the relationship.
    • Then it's flipped around in that Ruth's working-class lifestyle is more "developed" than that of Seretse's people.
  • "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue: The footnotes discuss the happy life of the couple, concluding with the information that one of their sons was elected president of Botswana.
  • Where da White Women At?: And how. However, despite the obvious racial difference, there's no indication that Ruth's race played any role in Seretse's falling in love with her.
  • Young Future Famous People: A young Tony Benn comes to Seretse's aid while he's in exile in Britain.