2016 Certificate: 12

Synopsis

Amma Asante's stirring period drama sheds welcome light on a love story for the ages. It's 1947 and Prince of Bechuanaland (now Botswana) Seretse Khama (David Oyelowo) is studying in London when he meets and falls head over heels for headstrong office worker Ruth Williams (Rosamund Pike). Marriage follows, but ugly reality soon sets in. Their unlikely union is seen as a slap in the face to the royal traditions of Seretse's people and - to make matters much, much worse - a bigoted British government all too eager to bend to the will of apartheid-era South Africa. Can love conquer all?

Director

  • Amma Asante

Cast

  • David Oyelowo

  • Rosamund Pike

  • Tom Felton

  • Jack Davenport

  • Charlotte Hope

  • Jessica Oyelowo

  • Nicholas Lyndhurst

Review

Huey Lewis and the News (sadly) don't make it onto the soundtrack, but Amma Asante's follow-up to the brilliant Belle is most definitely about the power of love. 

More specifically it's about an African prince (David Oyelowo), a London typist (Rosamund Pike) and a whirlwind, against-all-odds romance that somehow defied small-minded bigotry and racism, geo-political skulduggery and - for added measure - five-thousand-plus miles of separation.

Any way you slice it the story of Seretse and Ruth Williams Khama is a remarkable one, although Asante's decision to round out the edges and ensure everything goes down nice and smooth perhaps doesn't fully do it justice. 

The kid gloves are on from the off and for some this cosy, over-simplified approach will be hard to ignore. Our unlikely lovebirds face bigger and bigger obstacles but not for a single second is the happily-ever-after ending in doubt.

Still, accept the film on its own broad, crowd-pleasing terms and it is nigh-on impossible not to be swept up. 

Oyelowo and Pike are both excellent, the former proving that Selma was no fluke when it comes to delivering a stirring, heartfelt speech one minute and then showing impressive vulnerability the next - an early scene where he takes a knee and barely gets through his proposal is note-perfect. 

Pike, meanwhile, nails a double act of her own, veering between deer-in-the-headlights panic and steely, stiff-upper-lip resolve.

There's also a welcome dose of humour to prevent things from becoming a little too earnest, with plenty of laughs coming at the expense of the sneering British diplomats made - on more than once occasion - to look like bumbling fools. 

Tom Felton does well in a smaller role, while Jack Davenport very nearly steals the entire show as the loathsome Alistair Canning. Both are essentially just caricatures, but watching them fall flat on their faces works every time.

Andy Psyllides