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A United Kingdom

An Illusion Review by Joan Ellis

A United Kingdom

A United Kingdom is a powerful story rooted in racism in reverse. If the movie weren’t historically accurate, it might have been labelled “too good to be true,” but it did happen, and in just this way.

This fine movie was directed with great care and skill by director Amma Asante from a script by Guy Hibbert and a book by Susan Williams. Time, characters, and location may be different from those of today but the clash of cultural dictates – then and now – comes from the same hurt that racial hatred inflicts wherever it survives.

Time: 1947. Location: Africa and England. Characters: Seretse Khama (David Oyelowo) and Ruth Williams (Rosamund Pike). Seretse was sent from Africa to London by his uncle (Vusi Kunene) for the education that would equip him for his hereditary role as king of the British protectorate of Bechuanalanda, later to become Botswana. When the future king meets Ruth Williams, a white woman who works as an office worker, they fall in love with scant understanding of the international eruptions their marriage will cause. They love jazz, dancing, and each other and they spend little time thinking about the future.

When Seretse’s uncle (Vusi Kunene) summons him home with the announcement that his reign is to begin, the trouble begins. Ruth’s father rages at her marrying a black man and disowns her. Seretse’s uncle is livid that he is marrying a white woman. That’s the equation and while it plays out differently in England and Africa, the hurt is deep on both sides.

The genuinely appealing thing is that neither he nor she ever wavers. No second thoughts for her about marrying the king of a small African kingdom; none for him when his uncle exiles him back to England for five years as punishment for his white wife. Ruth elects to stay in Africa during her husband’s exile while she works for his return and in every way she can to become part of the country.

Actors Oyelowo and Pike create a couple we care very much about, and we marvel that their story unfolded seventy years ago. In a grim echo of today, the rage of the British government and their families creates the turmoil that nearly dooms his reign.

Director Amma Asante and actor David Oyelowo, both born in the U.K., clearly saw this true story in the same way: a married couple with love of country, love of each other, and a shared determination to bring this educated, qualified leader to the throne he had been preparing to occupy throughout his life.

The filmmakers were wise to avoid creating imaginary subplots and to concentrate instead on two people focused on their own future and that of the kingdom. This was 1947. In spite of progress between then and now, it is impossible to watch this movie without admitting to ourselves the one thing that persists in spite of political progress: the emotions of racial hatred.

Film Critic : JOAN ELLIS
Film Title : A United Kingdom
Word Count : 497
Running time: 1:51
Rating : PG-13
Date : March 5, 2017

 

Paterson

An Illusion Review by Joan Ellis

Paterson

Let the mood of Paterson roll gently over you. We are taken out of the spinning culture of our lives and dropped into the quiet world of Paterson, driver of bus #23 in Paterson, NJ. By movie’s end we sit in stillness thinking about the man we have been watching and that alone is a tribute to the movie.

How does writer/director Jim Jarmusch create Paterson’s world? As he focuses on one week in the bus driver’s life, we learn that this quiet man wakes up each morning at 6:15 while lying peacefully in bed with his sleeping wife Laura (Golshifteh Farahani). Her sleepy smile says both good morning and good-bye to the man she obviously loves.

Then it’s downstairs to a bowl of Cheerios where Paterson’s attention is caught by a box of matches that becomes fodder for the poem he will write in his head as he drives that day. He listens to the chatter of his passengers, acknowledges a fellow bus driver with a toot of his horn, returns to the bus station, and walks home. When he walks his dog after dinner, he stops at a bar for just one beer and a little conversation, his only connection to the outside world. He is a man of silent habit.

Meanwhile, Laura is at home turning their small house into a canvas of black and white abstractions. Throughout her day she paints the floors, walls, curtains, rugs – everything – including all her clothes in bi-colored angles and swirls. Her art is as demanding of attention as Patterson’s is private.

The two are together in the evening and share the small details she brings up to draw him in. When Laura says she had a dream about having twins, Paterson’s first thought is, “one for each of us.” When he starts noticing twins on his drives, we know they are going into his poetry – one for him, one for her. And that’s their chemistry. In two lives free of bedeviling distractions, they pursue their separate artistic passions. While Laura sees everything in terms of black and white design, Paterson sees everything around him in terms of his poetry.

In answer to writer/director Jarmusch, actor Adam Driver has created a man whose poems emerge from the details he absorbs on his bus drives. When he returns home to the woman he loves, he makes no comment on the extraordinary geometry she has made of their house. That’s hers, not his. And that’s their way.

In Adam Driver, Jim Jarmusch found the perfect messenger for the character and atmosphere he had imagined. We watch a silent bus driver isolated in creative design as he absorbs the smallest details of life around him. At the end of the day, he remains quiet even in the chaos of Laura’s abstractions. Director Jarmusch’s hopes are beautifully realized in Paterson the poet, and we reenter the outside world knowing we have seen something that was dear to its writer/director.

Film Critic : JOAN ELLIS
Film Title : Paterson
Word Count : 500
Running time: 1:58
Rating : R
Date : February 12, 2017