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Movie Review

He met her at a missionary dance in 1947.

He was a law student at Oxford, keeping his African royal heritage as close to his vest as possible. She was a lovely south London secretary, dragged to the dance by her younger sister.

No lasting relationship was supposed to be kindled, of course. But, well, their common love for jazz and bantered jokes about just how bad the dance band was got things rolling.

They both tried to ignore any feelings. But after a second get together at a proper dance club and talking the night away, there is no turning back. Prince Seretse Khama even goes so far as to point out numerous reasons why he, a black African, couldn't possibly marry a white English woman … before he eventually takes a knee and asks for Ruth Williams to consider his proposal for marriage.

"I know I'll never achieve anything back home, if I leave my heart here," he says with a tearful sigh.

Ruth takes all of five seconds to say yes.

The easy part of falling in love was behind them. The difficult part of being in love—and being an interracial couple in 1947—is now barreling at them with the speed of a hurtling locomotive.

Ruth's father says he is disgusted by her and will never speak to her again if she goes through with the marriage. Seretse's uncle and foster father forbids his king-to-be nephew from even considering such a foul relationship. The British government says the union is quite impossible. The people of Seretse's nation of Bechuana Land nearly revolt. And other South African governments threaten the relationship as well.

But Seretse and Ruth marry anyway, steeling themselves for the worst.

And it comes.

Positive Elements

"Let us not allow the ugliness of this world to take our joy away from us," Seretse tells his wife after his people speak of their revulsion about having a white Queen. And Seretse and Ruth do their best to let love shield them from the many verbal and political attacks lobbed in their direction. It's a difficult struggle, though, one that even results in the pair being physically separated by a government order.

However, this courageous husband and wife see all their efforts and their years of quiet dedication come to fruition as Seretse's people and even members of the British government eventually come to their defense. Seretse repeatedly speaks of his vision for black and white equality in Africa. "Race must have no bearing on equality and justice," he tells those who will listen. And he takes steps to move his nation toward free elections, saying, "No man is free who is not master of himself."

Spiritual Content

Seretse and Ruth marry in an English church. When Ruth and her sister head off to a church-sponsored missionary dance, their father warns Ruth not to come back as a missionary.

Sexual Content

On their wedding night, the couple embrace and kiss while he's shirtless and she wears a slip. We later see them in bed, covered by a sheet. While lounging together, Ruth jokingly raises her skirt to bare one thigh.

Violent Content

The film begins with a boxing match between Seretse and a white opponent who head-butts him. Several white men jump Ruth and Seretse on a dark street, Seretse fights back, but Ruth gets a bloodied nose in the scuffle. A group of Bechuana Land natives angrily riot throwing things at a British commissioner. Soldiers are sent in and hit the men with batons.

Ruth goes through a painful-looking labor and delivery (though the actual birth is kept off-camera).

Crude or Profane Language

Two n-words, one spoken and one written. A white street thug uses the harsh racial slur "coon" when confronting Ruth and Seretse. One use each of "b--tard," "h---," "d--n" and "slut." There's one misuse of God's name.

Drug and Alcohol Content

Seretse and Ruth have mixed drinks on a few occasions, one time getting a bit tipsy while alone in their room. We see several people, including Seretse, smoke cigarettes.

Other Negative Elements

Prejudice and racism are on display throughout much of the film (though the film is obviously a counterweighted commentary on those issues). Officials of the British government repeatedly lie.

Conclusion

The medium of film, when done well, has the wonderful ability to help us process the world around us and to prompt us to think through social and cultural struggles more deeply. And in a time when our nation is still reeling from racially related angst in our modern streets, A United Kingdom is one of those films that feels both deliberative and therapeutic.

Like the 2016 film Loving, this historical drama tells the real-world story of a committed, adoring biracial couple who refuse to let prejudice and political pressure rip their marriage apart. The context and period of the two films are worlds apart. But the significant cinematic statement is the same: No matter where prejudice and racial enmity come from, love can overcome.

That's not to suggest that this film is only a love story. It's also a compelling underdog tale of governmental overreach and political gamesmanship. But the unflinching, undaunted heart of this film's protagonist couple is what makes the difference, here—loudly proclaiming that humanity always has the ability to rise to its best, even while being forced to face its worst.

Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Christian Beliefs

Other Belief Systems

Authority Roles

Profanity/Violence

Kissing/Sex/Homosexuality

Discussion Topics

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