Monday, February 27, 2017

A United Kingdom

A United Kingdom
seen @ Cinemart Fiveplex, Forest Hills, Queens NY

I just finished reading the memoir Dreams From My Father, by Barack Obama, written back when he was still a senator. He's a very good writer. He's eloquent, of course, but he's also good at composing a narrative, with lively dialogue and distinguishable characters.

Anyway, as everyone knows, the (sigh) former president is the son of interracial parents, an American white woman and a Kenyan black man. The book is about his attempt to come to terms with their legacy and to establish an identity all his own. Early on, he speculates, based on his knowledge of them, about the first time his parents met his mother's parents:
...When my father arrived at the door, Gramps might have been immediately struck by the African's resemblance to Nat King Cole, one of his favorite singers; I imagine him asking my father if he can sing, not understanding the mortified look on my mother's face. Gramps is probably too busy telling one of his jokes or arguing with [Grandma] Toot over how to cook the steaks to notice my mother reach out and squeeze the smooth, sinewy hand beside hers. Toot notices, but she's polite enough to bite her lip and offer dessert; her instincts warn her against making a scene. When the evening is over, they'll both remark how intelligent the young man seems, so dignified, with the measured gestures, the graceful draping of one leg over another - and how about that accent? 
But would they let their daughter marry one?
It's easy to look upon someone from another culture with respect and admiration when they're not suddenly a family member. My sister's Japanese husband is enough like me, that is, American, that he doesn't come across as being that different, despite his not being black. Naturally, Lynne's life has changed; she eats more Asian food, and once, when they went to Japan, I saw a photo of her in a kimono; to pick two small examples. I suspect, though, they have more in common with each other than Obama's parents did...

...or, for that matter, the protagonists of A United Kingdom, the true story of an interracial Cinderella-like marriage that altered the course of two nations. This comes only a few months after Loving, but it seems a little more high-profile. Plus, the political aspect makes this very different from Jeff Nichols' more intimate portrait of Richard and Mildred Loving.

Seretse Khama and Ruth Williams have to deal with factions within both the British government and his native Bechuanaland (known today as Botswana) determined to keep them apart for political and economic reasons that seem bigger than the two of them alone. Their love for each other, however, sees them through. It's the backbone of this film, another hidden chapter of racial history brought to life by Belle director Amma Asante.

I sound like a broken record, but once again David Oyelowo turns in another great performance, in a role recalling his work in Selma, but with the added aspect of a tender, moving love affair, with Rosamund Pike. This was a labor of love for him; he himself is married to a white woman (she has a cameo in the film) and he's listed as a co-producer.

I arrived late again! I walked into the theater about a few minutes after the advertised start time, thinking I'd miss a trailer or two, but either the Cinemart played them before or they skipped them altogether. Could it be they actually stick to their start times, unlike other theaters that show fifteen minutes of ads and trailers first? If so, I'll have to remember that.

One final thing worth mentioning: when the Kingdom trailer played in front of La La Land, a woman in the audience, perhaps responding to the love story aspect, shouted afterward, "Every man should see that movie!" That got a laugh.


  1. It is interesting how so many true life stories are filling the screen these days.

  2. Isn't it though? I guess there are some things you just can't make up no matter how hard you try.


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