A United Kingdom Parent Guide
A beautiful story, well told, with powerful positive messages.
Parent Movie Review
One London evening in 1947, Ruth Williams (Rosamund Pike) reluctantly gives in to a request from her sister Muriel (Laura Carmichael) to go to a missionary society dance. Ruth heads out the door for an evening that will change not only her life, but the history of southern Africa. Attending the dance is Seretse Khama (David Oyelowo), a law student from the British protectorate of Bechuanaland (now called Botswana). Seretse is intelligent, articulate, and thoughtful, and the couple soon fall in love. The relationship isn’t all smooth sailing however, Seretse is black and Ruth is white. And Seretse is heir to the tribal kingship of the Bamangwato people.
Ruth accepts Seretse’s marriage proposal but congratulations are not forthcoming. Ruth’s father is outraged and refuses to speak to her. A British government functionary tries to bully her into calling off her engagement. And Seretse’s Uncle Tshekedi (Vusi Kunene), acting as Regent in Seretse’s absence, is incensed by the marriage. When the happy couple arrive in Bechuanaland, the situation worsens. Seretse’s relatives want nothing to do with Ruth, and Tshekedi calls a kgotla (tribal council) to strip his nephew of his right to the kingship over his marriage. The British government, under pressure from the apartheid regime of South Africa, does everything possible to deny Seretse the kingship. Seretse and Ruth must call upon their mutual love and loyalty, their intelligence and strategic skills to save their marriage and serve their country and people.
A United Kingdom is a beautiful story, well told, but it is not for children, who will likely be bored. Parents considering this story for viewing by teens can be confident that there are few content issues: minor vulgar language and a few racial slurs, occasional smoking and social drinking, and two violent scenes that are neither excessive nor gory. The issue that may deter some parents is a sensual scene on Ruth and Seretse’s wedding night. Seretse is shirtless and the couple are caressing one another; Seretse is sliding Ruth’s lingerie strap off her shoulder. It is worth noting, however, that there is no further nudity and this scene takes place within the context of a committed marriage relationship.
This movie also comes with some big pluses. First, it provides a wonderful illustration of a loving, loyal marriage. Ruth and Seretse gain strength from each other and are totally devoted to one another. This is exactly the kind of marriage most parents will want their teens to see on the big screen. Second, the film contains powerful messages about justice and racial equality. When Tshekedi tries to have Seretse removed from the line of succession, Seretse makes a passionate plea for racial equality. He says “We should not be fighting for segregation. We should be fighting for equality… Africa can never be free until all those who live in her, white and black, recognize that race must have no bearing on equality and justice.” This timeless message is one with the power to unify to all who are willing to listen and act on it.Directed by Amma Asante. Starring David Oyelowo, Rosamund Pike, Vusi Kenene, Terry Pheto. Running time: 111 minutes. Theatrical release February 10, 2017. Updated April 20, 2020
Watch the trailer for A United Kingdom
A United Kingdom
Rating & Content Info
Why is A United Kingdom rated PG-13? A United Kingdom is rated PG-13 by the MPAA for some language including racial epithets and a scene of sensuality
Violence: An African man is attacked, punched and pushed by white men who hurl racial epithets at him for dating a white woman. The woman is punched in the face and we see some blood under her nose. An angry crowd chants and throws rocks or dirt at a colonial official. Police hit protestors with clubs. Rocks are thrown at an official’s car.
Sexual Content: An engaged couple embrace. There are scenes of a married couple embracing and kissing. There is a wedding night scene where a couple embrace; he is shirtless and is removing her lingerie strap. The couple awaken in bed together on a few occasions. A woman wearing a hospital gown is seen in labor.
Profanity: Rare uses of racial slurs and vulgar language.
Alcohol / Drug Use: There is occasional smoking and some social drinking, never to excess.
Page last updated April 20, 2020
A United Kingdom Parents' Guide
The British government gives into pressure from the South African government and opposes Seretse and Ruth’s marriage. In the 1940s, South Africa is imposing its racist apartheid system which separates black and white citizens and refuses to tolerate a multiracial couple on the throne of its small neighbor. Britain relies on South Africa’s gold reserves to prop up its economy after World War II. Do you think Britain could have acted differently?
Ruth’s father was angry over her marriage to a black man. Why do you think people object to interracial marriage? Interracial marriages are on the rise. Do you think people are more accepting of these marriages now? How do you think disapproval of these marriages affects couples and their children?
Loved this movie? Try these books…
A United Kingdom is based on a book by Susan Williams entitled Colour Bar: The Triumph of Seretse Khama and His Nation.
Alexander McCall Smith’s The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series is set in Botswana and its main character, Precious Ramotswe, respectfully remembers Seretse Khama.
British school teacher, Will Randall, shares his experiences as a school teacher in Kasana, Botswana in Botswana Time.
Related home video titles:
Loving tells the story of Richard and Mildred Loving, a couple whose interracial marriage was deemed illegal by the state of Virginia. The film follows their marriage and the legal battle that finally culminated before the Supreme Court.
Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom is a bio-drama about Nelson Mandela, the man who led the fight against South Africa’s apartheid system.