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A United Kingdom


Rosamund Pike, Madison Manowe and David Oyelowo star in a scene from the movie "A United Kingdom." The Catholic News Service classification is A-III -- adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13 -- parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13. (CNS photo/Fox)

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NEW YORK (CNS) -- The historical drama "A United Kingdom" (Fox Searchlight) tells the story of Seretse Khama (David Oyelowo), an African royal who faced down mid-20th-century racial prejudice to marry Ruth Williams (Rosamund Pike), a white office worker he met in post-World War II London.

Seretse and Ruth cross paths at a dance where they discover a mutual love of jazz. She subsequently learns that he's a prince of what was then called Bechuanaland, a British protectorate (the future Botswana). Their romance proceeds at a rapid clip despite occasional encounters with racist street punks.

Political considerations pose a much larger obstacle, however. The British government has to deal with Bechuanaland's neighbor, South Africa, which is on the verge of installing apartheid as official -- and violently enforced -- government policy and is outraged by the high-profile marriage.

The match also runs into considerable resistance from Seretse's uncle, Tshekedi (Vusi Kunene), who has long been the protectorate's acting regent. It draws the scorn of many native women as well.

The generic portrayal of this last group reveals the basic flaw hobbling director Amma Asante and screenwriter Guy Hibbert's film: Virtually everyone on screen is an archetype.

Although dealing in generalities can be an efficient way to boil down episodes of the past that are likely unfamiliar to modern audiences, it also hinders the storytelling.

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