Based on a true story A United Kingdom has Rosamund Pike (Gone Girl) and David Oyelowo (Selma) play Ruth Williams and Seretse Khama respectively, who meet and fall in love in foggy London, 1947. He's an African prince in London studying Law and is all set to return home to assume his royal duties in Bechuanaland (later Botswana) when he belies his uncle's orders and marries Ruth. Taking her home, he finds that his tribe is split over this marriage and meddling British ambassador Alastair Canning (Davenport) sets out to keep the couple apart…
Writer Guy Hibbert (Eye In The Sky) likes his protagonists to encounter as many obstacles as possible but heaps more than needed onto Ruth and Seretse. Not only do Ruth's parents object to the union with dad Nicholas Lyndhurst (Only Fools And Horses) doing his stiff up lip/don't-darken-my-door-again thing, there's Seretse's uncle threatening civil war, his sister refusing to accept her, Apartheid-bound South Africa making noise about breaking off relations with Britain if Seretse doesn't abdicate, the British applying pressure, an American mining company digging in Bechuanaland's mountains for diamonds, and the country suffering from famine and disease. Oh, and Ruth gets pregnant while sick too.
How does one get through all these subplots in under two hours? By zipping through them at breakneck speed is how: A United Kingdom unfurls at such a rip-roaring pace nothing – not even the central romance – is developed or explored beyond a cursory obligation. And in the race to the finish there are moments that are sadly overlooked: The whole Pike/angry dad/missing home element is forgotten about when it would have added another layer to Ruth, and with Seretse exiled in London for a year wouldn't there have been a chance for him to drop into Ruth's parents for a reconciliation scene? The entire venture can lean on melodrama and the dialogue doesn't extend past variations of "This marriage cannot happen/This marriage is happening".
And yet. And yet. An engaging watch A United Kingdom remains. Pike and Oyelowo don't have the screen time to entirely convince of their deep love but they certainly put in a shift when they are together, while Jack Davenport and Tom Felton (Harry Potter's Draco Malfoy carving out a decent career as the Despicable Guy) are delightfully punchable villains. And it's nice to see a young Tony Benn (Jack Lowden), instrumental in later episodes, make an appearance.
Solid with engaging performances.