The Toronto International Film Festival is truly underway, and already some of this year’s most anticipated Oscar contenders have screened. One of them was Amma Asante’s A United Kingdom.
So what have the reviews been like?
Well, judging by the tweets it seems this film is all about the cast, and if this goes pushes hard in any categories it should focus its efforts on stars David Oyelowo and Rosamund Pike. Kate Erbland of IndieWire offers a fond review of the ‘well-matched’ duet, writing they are ‘able to convey both the early passions of their romance and the harder years with believable and rich emotion’.
Variety’s review is a little more tepid. ‘To properly put a romance in jeopardy, one must first convince us that it exists’ writes Peter Debruge, ‘and while we witness the first meeting between Seretse there’s little to suggest that what they share is special’. The Telegraph also need more convincing, headlining their review ‘a stirring interrogation of British identity that deserves more’.
However, Twitter users have taken kindly to the film, with Jenelle Riley posting the below showing the cast and crew’s emotional response to a standing ovation:
— Jenelle Riley (@jenelleriley) September 10, 2016
And indeed inclusion is the order of the day, with many praising the concept of A United Kingdom with more zest than the final product. But in a year where sensitivity towards diversity is sky high, positive intent could be enough to take both Oyelowo and Pike all the way to the Oscars, particularly considering the former was snubbed – unfairly according to some – for his lead in Selma two years ago.
Amma Asante is also getting a strong reception in Toronto, who became the first black woman to open the festival (allegedly, we haven’t checked this out). It just shows that doing the press rounds and hitting Toronto hard can do wonders for any film’s publicity, and this is evident in Asante’s commitment. She will not feature in the director race though, this category is already far too crowded.
Make no mistake, its strong start at Toronto may have given it a major boost, but the reviews are not unanimously praiseworthy. It has a long way to go to assert itself as a big contender this awards season, but early reaction is positive and it has put itself on the map.
Have you seen A United Kingdom? Comment below with your reaction