1hr 45mins | Rated M | Violence
Starring: Rosamund Pike, Tom Felton, Laura Carmichael
Beginning in London in 1947 and very much based on the true story told by Susan Williams’s book The Colour Bar, it begins at one of those well-intentioned ‘socials’ held by the Church.
On one side is a handsome London University law student; on the other a pretty young woman who’s been slightly dragged along by her sister but – still enjoying the empowerment of women that came courtesy of the Second World War – is certainly no shrinking violet.
Their eyes meet, there is an instant attraction and the rest could be familiar boy-meets-girl history… but for a couple of inconvenient facts.
He – Seretse Khama (David Oyelowo) – is black while she – Ruth Williams (Rosamund Pike) – is white and, rather more importantly, she is a typist and the two-up, two-down-dwelling daughter of a salesman, while he is a prince and about to become King of Bechuanaland.
Bechuana-where? These days, of course, it’s better known as Botswana.
Now Amma Asante (Director) has a proper love story to tell, the sort of love story that Shakespeare would certainly have no trouble recognising.
Asante – best known for the British slave-era drama Belle and a former actress herself – draws quite fabulous performances from both Oyelowo and Pike, who deliver alternate moments of tenderness and power, and are totally convincing in their respective, gently accented roles.
But they are helped enormously by Guy Hibbert’s intelligent but hugely accessible screenplay that is always one clever step ahead of us.
For this is no simple story of love conquering all, and our viewpoint is constantly being shifted.
The possibilities of divorce, abdication or exile all have a part to play in an immaculately paced and gripping story in which Attlee, Churchill and mineral rights all have minor roles.
Africa looks stunning, the use of original locations in Botswana brings an authentic sense of place.
The result is one of the great British films of 2016: it will send you out into the night knowing a little more about the world and, just possibly, quietly determined to do a little better by it. I couldn’t recommend it more highly.