A United Kingdom

Movie review by
S. Jhoanna Robledo, Common Sense Media
A United Kingdom Movie Poster Image
Beautiful but slightly flat drama about powerful love story.
  • PG-13
  • 2017
  • 111 minutes

Parents say

age 10+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

age 12+
Based on 1 review

We think this movie stands out for:

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

No one should be judged based on their ethnicity, the color of their skin, or their country of origin -- or any other discriminatory reason, for that matter. Civil rights are human rights, and it's important to fight for inclusion and equality, no matter what challenges you face. Love is more important than duty and tradition. Themes include compassion, perseverance, and integrity.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Both Seretse and Ruth are principled people who are steadfast in their demand for equal treatment for all. Seretse is a beacon of integrity and hope to his people, fighting for their independence from Britain and their way forward as a peaceful, tolerant nation within an Africa torn apart by discrimination and apartheid. Many of the English diplomats/politicians are depicted as manipulative and self-serving, though some step up to help and do what's right.

Violence

Police try to quell a political uprising by hitting people with batons. Prejudiced white people threaten blacks, both quietly and aggressively, sometimes calling them the N-word. Seretse is set upon by a gang of racist thugs in England; he takes some hits, and Ruth also sustains a minor injury. Boxers spar in the ring. Lots of emotional distress.

Sex

A married couple kisses and falls into each other's arms in bed; her bare shoulders and his bare torso are seen. They wake up in bed together, covered by strategically placed sheets. In one scene, he sensually starts to remove her clothes.

Language

The "N" word, plus occasional use of other racist, degrading terms, including "slut," "whore," and "coon." Also "bastard" and "in God's name."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Social drinking by adults. In one scene, Ruth and Seretse get happily tipsy, laughing and dancing with each other.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that A United Kingdom is based on the true story of Seretse Khama (David Oyelowo), the heir to the tribal throne of Bechunaland (now Botswana), and Ruth Williams (Rosamund Pike), a white Englishwoman. They fell in love and married in the late 1940s, and their controversial relationship started a political storm in both England and Africa. There are a couple of mildly violent scenes -- a gang of racist thugs besets a black man (minor injuries), and law enforcement officers try to control angry people with batons (lots of chaos ensues). But it's the menace of apartheid and racism, depicted in its full ugliness, that's most upsetting. The "N" word is used, Seretse and Ruth kiss passionately and go to bed (her bare shoulders and his bare torso are shown), and there's some drinking by adults. Characters demonstrate integrity, perseverance, and compassion, and the movie's messages about the importance of both love and equality are clear and strong.

User Reviews

Adult Written byFamilymovies1060 June 18, 2017

True Story

At about 23:52 into the movie there is a scene of sex that should be skipped and ends at about 24:24. Other than that, nothing objectionable for a family.
Kid, 9 years old April 1, 2018

Moving historical drama has some mature topics

A couple years ago, I first saw this movie with my grandparents when it came out in the theaters. We all enjoyed it, but I think that the interest level, conten... Continue reading

What's the story?

In A UNITED KINGDOM, it's 1947, and Seretse Khama (David Oyelowo) is getting ready to go home to Bechuanaland (now known as Botswana) to take his place as king. But love, arriving in the form of a white British woman named Ruth Williams (Rosamund Pike), complicates things. The pair quickly becomes enamored with each other, and when Seretse asks her to come home with him, as his wife, Ruth can't say no. But their union is complicated by geopolitical forces that threaten not only to keep them apart but could have a ripple effect across the entire African continent and beyond. 

Is it any good?

This is a beautifully filmed drama about a fascinating, important time in history. But A United Kingdom, while certainly worth a watch -- especially for Oyelowo's and Pike's excellent performances -- is somewhat hobbled by its attachment to linear storytelling and telling, rather than showing. The story unwinds in a stolid, paint-by-numbers way that detracts from the passion underlying Seretse and Ruth's epic romance and the political storm it unleashes.

For a film about a love so deep that it left its imprint on history and the world, it's oddly devoid of intimacy. We're given hints, but we never quite know what, besides jazz and dancing, binds Seretse and Ruth. Nonetheless, A United Kingdom will have you running to your computer to do more research on your own -- it's the tip of a very engrossing historical iceberg. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how A United Kingdom depicts racism. What different forms does it take? Are some more hurtful than others? Why or why not?

  • Are Seretse and Ruth role models? Why? How do they (and other characters in the movie) demonstrate perseverance, integrity, and compassion? Why are those important character strengths?

  • How accurate do you think the movie is? Why might filmmakers choose to alter the facts? What are the challenges of adapting a true story for the screen? Did you learn anything new about Botswana or apartheid from the movie?

  • What does the movie teach us about history and how both laws and public opinion change over time?

Movie details

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