Finally, a film that’s been everywhere but here is now here in Canada.
Synopsis: Dramatization of the real-life romance between white Londoner Ruth Williams and African law student Seretse Khama, who began their love affair in 1947 when Williams was unaware that Khama was the heir apparent to the throne of the Bamangwato tribe of the British protectorate of Bechuanaland (modern-day Botswana). After deciding to marry, the couple return to Africa so he can assume his royal duties, but their interracial marriage faces opposition from both Khama’s family and neighboring South Africa, whose apartheid government leans on Britain to break up their union. (Rovi)
Starring: David Oyelowo, Rosamund Pike, and Jack Davenport
Writer: Guy Hibbert
Director: Amma Asante
Running Time: 111mins
Watching this, it’s hard not to think about Loving which was released late last year. They both have similar stories involving interracial relationships with historical context. This one is slightly different, however, as the gender roles are reversed and involves a clash of cultures of sorts. The film is about a couple named Seretse Khama (Oyelowo) and Ruth Williams (Pike) who fall in love and then marry in 1947. Little did she know, Khama was the heir to the throne in his homeland of Bechuanaland (modern-day Botswana). The fact that Williams was white did not exactly sit well with his people or his uncle Tshekedi (Vusi Kunene).
Despite the growing pressure for them to end their marriage as soon as it started, they remained in love and remained steadfastly dedicated to one another. Khama was already royalty but he still had to prove himself to his people and the rest of Africa that he was worthy of ruling them. They considered him marrying a white woman a great insult so he had to convince them that he still had their best interests in mind. He was not alone in this as Williams had to prove herself as well, convincing the people of Bechuanaland that her motivations were just and she meant them no harm.
Khama managed to rally some of his people but they were still mostly divided, either siding for Seretse or Tshekedi. There was an adjustment period but they were eventually able to accept Williams. Along with the conflict with his uncle, the British government, who controlled Bechuanaland, did not recognize his authority due to pressure from their ally, the neighboring South Africa, because their relationship went against their apartheid government. They tried to lure him away from his people and his wife in the hopes of exiling him but he still found a way to get back home.
The film was beautifully shot, highlighting the contrast between London and Africa with a lot of the African scenes being shot at sunset. This film’s sense of authenticity continued with the costumes and the set design, making it all feel very immersive. The score set the tone nicely. While it had the potential to be boring, the film’s pace moved quick enough to not lose interest.
The best part of the film has to be Oyelowo and Pike’s performances as Khama and Williams. Their amazing chemistry made their relationship feel real and engaging to watch together. It was easy to see how much they cared for one another while adeptly capturing the range of emotions present. They were excellent together but just as excellent apart as each had many breakout moments with Oyelowo getting to deliver some powerful speeches as Khama and Pike as Williams acting like a fish out of water in her new homeland. The supporting actors were also good but the villains, including Davenport’s Sir Alistair Canning were a little too one-dimensional.
Overall, this was a great romance film about race where race did not play a significant role, taking a backseat to compelling political intrigue. While it could have been boring, it was elevated by the performances of Oyelowo and Pike.
If you liked this, please read my other reviews here and don’t forget to follow me on Twitter, follow me on Instagram, and also like me on Facebook. Would you like to write movie reviews for this site? Contact me above or via social media for more information.