In director Amma Asante's epic political romance A United Kingdom, David Oyelowo and Rosamund Pike star as Seretse and Ruth Khama, the interracial royal couple who stunned the world when they fought to rule the country that would become the Republic of Botswana. The story's a wildly interesting history lesson on African poverty, the rise of apartheid in the late 1940s and Britain's passive role in separating Botswana's blacks from whites. But here all that complexity plays more Disney than drama with a script from Guy Hibbert (Eye in the Sky) that turns love into a montage and politics into a trite cartoon of good vs. evil.
At a time when white people are swarming into Bechuanaland to turn black citizens into servants, how good an idea is a white queen? Ruth sits in her room, practicing British queen skills like waving and smiling, while the tribe's women break their backs outside to get food to their families. But A United Kingdom doesn't fully explore this cultural distance; the film's structure requires that Ruth be quickly accepted into the tribe, so the story can move on to Britain's treachery.
Oyelowo and Pike are certainly world-class actors, both exhibiting flashes of their capabilities with a misty eye or shaking hand here and there, but the scope of the politics in this story is too wide to make room for an in-depth portrayal of Seretse and Ruth's relationship -- and I haven't even covered the diamond-mining subplot.