Marriage is an institution in crisis in our society right now. Our young people need examples of people who remain faithful to their love and their marriage vows through all life throws at them: in good times and in bad, as the vows say. “A United Kingdom” is a film that provides such an example in an inspiring true story.
Ruth Williams (Rosamund Pike) and Seretse Khama (David Oyelowo) meet at a church dance in 1940’s London, both liking jazz but joking that the band doesn’t seem quite up to the task of playing it well. This encounter sparks a conversation that sparks a relationship that sparks a proposal. Seretse is upfront with Ruth from the beginning when he tells her that he is a prince, destined to rule his people in Bechuanaland (now the Republic of Botswana just north of South Africa).
The country holds the status of being a British protectorate and when news of the proposed marriage gets to the politicians in both countries, the Brits try to convince Ruth that it would cause irreparable damage to the political situation, while Seretse corresponds with his uncle (Vusi Kunene), who has acted as regent since Seretse’s father died. None of the reasons given convince Ruth or Seretse to go their separate ways. They marry and travel to Seretse’s home where the trouble begins immediately.
Ruth and Seretse’s romance is the heart of the film. Through all their trials they never lose sight of their love for each other. Even when Seretse is exiled and they are only able to communicate by phone, their love evident as is their willingness to do whatever they have to do to be together again. Their refusal to give in to political pressures leads the people of Bechuanaland to grow to accept Ruth and her place in the life of the community.
Beside the strong story about fidelity and love, this film also lauds peaceful communication and negotiation over violence in times of political turmoil. Seretse’s uncle opposes his marriage because of the political trouble it brings but as the British demands keep growing, he and Seretse are able to talk to each other, discuss possible solutions to the problems and come up with an unconventional idea that launches Bechuanaland toward democracy.
“A United Kingdom” shares a story probably few Americans know about. I sure didn’t and now I feel like every high school student should see the film to learn what is possible when love, tolerance, openness, kindness, and fidelity drive one’s life and actions.
You might also enjoy our review of the movie, "Loving." Click here.