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A United Kingdom review: Tough love in a harsh climate

By Damon Smith

Seretse Khama (David Oyelowo), heir apparent to the nation of Bechuanaland (now Botswana), is studying law in 1947 London before returning home to lead his people. He has been prepared for this role by his proud uncle Tshekedi (Vusi Kunene) and a council which kowtows to the UK.

At a dance organised by the London Missionary Society, Seretse falls in love with typist Ruth Williams (Rosamund Pike), whose bigoted father George (Nicholas Lyndhurst) would never condone the flourishing romance.

Paternal rage pales next to the indignation of Alistair Canning (Jack Davenport), the UK government's representative in southern Africa. Unperturbed, the couple marry and Ruth accompanies Seretse to Bechuanaland, where she faces hostility from uncle Tshekedi, aunt Ella (Abena Ayivor) and Seretse's sister Naledi (Terry Pheto). Meanwhile, the UK regime - represented by snivelling district commissioner Rufus Lancaster (Tom Felton) - and the South African government use underhand tactics to separate the lovebirds. A United Kingdom is a stirring ode to love, distinguished by molten on-screen chemistry between Oyelowo and Pike.

Four stars

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