Movie Review: A United Kingdom

united-kingdom-kpbs.jpeg

Sereste and Ruth Williams Khama (David Oyelowo and Rosamund Pike) go to Africa in A United Kingdom. (Source: KPBS)

Movies featuring interracial couples can be tricky. If done poorly, it would be over-manipulative and over-sentimentalized. Last year’s Loving works due to the subtle nature of its subject matter (Loving v. Virginia). The U.S. has another movie featuring an interracial couple from the U.K. Directed by Amma Asante (of 2014’s overlooked Belle, about a mixed-raced girl raised as an aristocrat in the 18th century after England abolished slavery), A United Kingdom brings an important part of history to life.

The movie opens up in London in 1947. Serest Khama (David Oyelowo) is an heir of Bechuanaland (now Botswana) who is studying in Oxford. One night, he meets the lovely officer clerk Ruth Williams (Rosamund Pike). She’s white. He’s black. After going out dancing, they begin to fall for one another and eventually get married (despite the dismay of Ruth’s parents).

Their marriage conflicts between the British and South African governments. The latter initialized the apartheid policy, meaning black people can’t live with white people. The interracial couple end up in Africa, so Sereste can talk upon the villagers about taking the throne from his uncle.

Born in London to Ghanaian parents, Asante and screenwriter Guy Hibbert (Eye in the Sky) do a terrific job balancing romance with the politics of the time. Love is equal no matter the color one’s skin is. With World War II ended two years ago, a white person marrying a black person was not only rare but shocking to the world. Bechuanaland and South Africa were ruled by the British government who have easy access to gold, uranium, and other minerals. Sereste and Ruth fight for their lives to gain independence from the British.

Oyelowo’s powerful performance as Sereste proves how great of an actor he can be from starring in minor roles (such as Lincoln) to playing Martin Luther King in Selma. It’s hard not to take your eyes off of him, especially when he delivers an uplifting speech about his love for his country, his people, and most importantly, his wife. But—this is the beginning of his troubles. British government official Alistair Canning (Jack Davenport) and district commissioner Rufus Lancaster (Tom Felton, Malfoy from Harry Potter) fear about losing their resources. If he gets exiled from his homeland, what would he do without his wife and child? After her brilliant turn in Gone Girl, Pike gives a subtle performance as Ruth, in which she receives compassion from the villagers. Her chemistry with Oyelowo is truly one-of-a-kind. They provide enough warm-hearted wit to carry through the rough times.

Despite the incredible true story feeling, at times, forced and ignoring the “show, don’t tell” technique, A United Kingdom is a gorgeously shot, tender love story and historical piece. Good stuff!

3/4

Movie Review: Gone Girl

Ben Affleck addresses the crowd about his wife's disappearance in David Fincher's "Gone Girl"

Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck) addresses the crowd about his wife’s (Rosamund Pike) disappearance in David Fincher’s “Gone Girl”

David Fincher is one of Hollywood’s well-known directors. He has made some of the greatest movies of all-time, like Fight Club and The Social Network. His latest film, Gone Girl, is typical Fincher. His beautifully dark cinematography with hues reminiscent to a film noir and the haunting score by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross set the manipulated mood very well. With Ben Affleck in front of the camera, he gives a brilliant glimpse of the nature and ambiguity of the news media. It gives audiences to discuss about for years to come.

Nick and Amy Dunne (Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike) have been married for nearly five years. On the day of their fifth anniversary, Nick sees a coffee table smashed into a million pieces. He can’t seem to find Amy anywhere. His Missouri hometown is surrounded by police officers, news reporters, and neighbors. They keep asking the same question: Did Nick kill his wife?

He immediately becomes the prime suspect.

When a candlelight vigil takes place, Nick addresses the crowd regarding his wife’s disappearance. While the police looks for clues, Nick tries to get rid of his guilt throughout the investigation.

I always love a good mystery. I have rarely seen a lot where they would keep me on the edge of my seat from the very beginning. For a 2-1/2 hour long movie, Gone Girl flew by like a breeze. It does such a phenomenal job at keeping the mystery under wraps (kudos to the marketing campaign). Once the audience settles into the theater, they would expect the unexpected. Words cannot describe how much I loved Gone Girl!

Ben Affleck gives the performance of his career as the suspect of his wife’s disappearance. He’s already becoming one of my favorite actors (even though I still can’t picture him as Batman). Rosamund Pike’s Amy is a force. Through flashbacks and narration, she remains an enigma to the characters, as well as the audience. This is one of the only occasions where Tyler Perry doesn’t suck (the other being his short role in 2009’s Star Trek). His portrayal of a lawyer gives enough wit to this otherwise dark mystery. He keeps his character as serious as the film’s tone. I’m surprised by Neil Patrick Harris as Amy’s obsessive ex-boyfriend. David Fincher and his team give us a nail-biting thriller packed with a dark atmosphere, many twists and turns, dark humor, and it pays off with an emotional punch. He makes it look real, act real, and feel real. Easily one of the year’s absolute best.

4/4