I don’t usually notice technical editing in a film. I know technicals are the wrong word for this, there’s artistry to be found in colour and compositing and audio mixing. But for want of a better term, we’ll stick with that. A United Kingdom has some of the most distracting choices in the regard I’ve seen is recent film. Especially that sound editing, it’s baffling how some of the cuts here made it into the final mix. It’s not all the fault of the underlings though, on the whole the edit is full of these weirdo moves, hopping around with no clear intention.
This feels like a side effect of a screenplay that’s trying to have it every way imaginable. Based on the story of Prince Seretse Khama of Bechuanaland’s courtship and marriage of the British Ruth Williams and the ongoing intercontinental political intrigue that stems from their coupling. It’s not sure what it wants to be, a romance, a thriller, a heist; we never see enough of the couple to explore the realities of their relationship. However the focus is so set on these two that all the backdoor politicking is left for off-screen. Ain’t no juice here. Ain’t no meat.
The casting’s a problem too. Rosamund Pike and David Oyelowo are both very talented and gifted actors who are just wrong wrong wrong in these roles. The plot starts with Seretse Khama studying at university. This is a forty fucking year old man. Nope. There a certain age where that gets wrong and Oyelowo has hit it. This compounds with the fact that the story is supposed to take place over the course of sever years. How many? Not a clue, back to the edit, the sense of the passage of time, the sense of this relationship evolving is nowhere to be found, everything just unmoored. Doesn’t help that these characters are in love within the first ten minutes.
The performances are passable. Pike is unremarkable, which is a shame because so much of the time she is. Oyelowo puts in this real breathy performance. Like, he’s breathing and gasping through his lines in this off-putting manner, feels like he ran a 5k before each scene. Wrong choice there David. Shout out to Abena Ayivor though, playing his mother, who don’t really gets much but puts in the fucking work with what she has. That bein said the film gets to Africa and it feels like when it does the whole thing does step up a notch.
But it’s so low gear, so average that it don’t really explode with the vivacity that Belle did, or A Way of Life, her debut feature. There’s moments that are real nice buried, mainly in Africa, mainly away from the men, when we get time. All the way from the script down we slip and slip and we don’t end up with a good movie. But whatever, we all make missteps and I’m still an Asante fan. It’ll take more than one below average movie to bury her.