The King's Speech [8.4/10]

Year : 2010 | Genre :   Drama, History
Director : Tom Hooper
Writer : David Seidler
With:    Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush, Helena Bonham Carter

Most of us take so many things for granted. Being able to speak properly is one of those things and if anyone hasn’t realized this simple fact yet, they most certainly will after watching “The King’s Speech”. How agonizing it must be to stumble upon your words again and again, having people waiting for you, either amused or with impatience, as you keep stuttering trying to enunciate a simple sentence. Having just a normal dialogue with a friend must be hard enough, but what if you are forced to speak to a nation? And how about several nations, in a LIVE radio transmission broadcasted in UK and the rest of Europe, North America, Africa and Asia all at once as you speak? Just knowing that all these people will be listening to you on air is enough to cause you anxiety, but what if on top of that you have a severe speech impediment that compels you to spasmodically repeat sounds as you struggle to get the words out? How dreadful!

This is what King George VI had to do, in a speech which announced that the British Empire had just entered the most devastating war in the history of humanity: the war with Hitler.

The first scene of the film introduces Bertie, Duke of York (Colin Firth), soon to King George VI. He is trying to hold a speech. He is tongue tied and there’s nothing but agony on his face as he attempts to read the first words. He stutters compulsively in between long silent pauses, awhile his audience reactions vary from annoyance to pity. They all know. His wife Elizabeth (Helena Bonham Carter) is in the crowd and she sees the humiliation and shame in his eyes. She weeps. Poor Bertie.

In spite of what the general plot might suggest, the film is actually a lot more entertaining than we could have guessed. The dialogues are sparked with the “British wit” type of humor, and I found myself laughing out loud on more than one occasion.

Elizabeth, we find, keeps seeking out speech therapists trying to help Bertie overcome his problem. And so she stumbles upon Lionel Logue, an Australian speech disorder practitioner who has been highly recommended and is known for his good results but unorthodox methods. Elisabeth introduces herself as "Mrs. Johnson", explaining that her husband suffers from stammer and his work requires him to speak in public. Lionel’s response is that maybe he should find another job? When Elizabeth reveals that the patient is the Duke of York, Lionel agrees to see him -  but in his own office. Lionel never makes house calls, not even for royalty. Bertie reluctantly agrees to see him and from here on we get to observe the unusual therapy sessions, which make for quite a few hilarious scenes.

The Duke is going to need them a lot more than he thought. When King George V dies, he leaves Bertie’s brother Edward (Guy Pearce) as his successor for the throne.  But the new King Edward is more preoccupied with personal matters than anything else, he is in love with the twice-divorced American socialite Wallace Simpson and, in order to marry her, he is forced to abdicate leaving the throne to his brother. And so, the shy and stuttering Bertie unwillingly becomes King George VI.

But in spite of the political matters, what brings this movie to life is the dynamic between Bertie and Lionel - two very different men from very different worlds, at the beginning of a great friendship that will last a lifetime. We witness the development of this unlikely relationship in the context of a perfect blend between history, family feuds and personal dramas, while the touch of comedy makes all of it that more entertaining.

Helena Bonham Carter is great in the role of Bertie’s supportive wife – Duchess of York, soon to be known as Queen Elizabeth, a woman equally intelligent as she is compassionate and with a practical side to her. But then again, when isn't she great ?

There is a scene when Bertie is watching Hitler holding a speech on TV and we can see with brutal clarity the contrast between King George VI, who feels overwhelmed by the power he received without desiring it and for who speaking is a constant struggle - and Hitler, a great orator and a horrible human being, intoxicated by power and speaking with such fluidity and passion that you don’t even need to understand German to be fascinated.

As the movie progresses we understand that Bertie is wounded. This revelation makes for one of the most powerful scenes in the film. He was hurt so bad that his scars now show through the way he speaks, preventing him for being "normal". Lionel seems to be the first person to ever understand this about him.

“The King’s Speech” is a valuable piece of historical cinema but more than that, it illustrates with great delicacy the power of human connection. It is about a great man who just needed someone to brake through his shell of insecurity and pain so he can see his own greatness.


My overall rating : 8.4 / 10

Rating per categories, 10 being maximum of points and 1 being minimum :

Directing : 8.5
Script : 8.5
Plot and Storyline : 8
Cinematography and visuals: 8
Characters and acting : 9


Anonymous said...

Geoffrey Rush gives the worst Australian accent in this movie....I mean, he doesn't even try, the movie would have been better just to leave that fact out, instead of trying to live up to a level of historical accuracy.

Aside from that, the film does deserve to win the big prize, as does social network, inception, black swan...I think we'll look back on 2010's movies and say, can't believe x lost.

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