1925: The Duke of York, Albert Windsor (Colin Firth) has a stammer and finds it difficult to speak in the public eye. Elizabeth (Helena Bonham-Carter), his wife, goes in search of a speech therapist and comes across the controversial Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush). Bertie quits on the first day. However, when he listens to the recording, he comes skulking back. In 1936, Bertie’s brother David/Edward VIII (Guy Pearce) abdicates the throne so he could marry Wallis Simpson (Eve Best), all in the name of love. Suddenly, there is a crisis in the House of Commons and England is now at war with Germany. King George VI must make an address to his country, and his friend and speech therapist Lionel Logue must help him to get there.
Having a stutter or stammer is more common than one might think. Some people stutter under nervousness or pressure whilst others can do so over the most basic of scenarios. One thing is for certain, we are not born with them and they can be cured. Tom Hooper’s The King’s Speech follows King George VI (Firth) and how with the help of Lionel Logue he was able to be free of his stutter and become England’s voice in the Second World War. Many thought George unfit to be king, except his father King George V (Michael Gambon). Yet with his brother’s abdication of the throne because he’d fallen in love, George (Firth) is thrust upon it and pit against powerful speakers like Adolf Hitler, great opponents indeed.
This is British film at its best. 1936 saw the coming of the controversial Berlin Olympic Games but it also saw the scandal of David (Edward) and Wallis. The middle of the 1930s was a turning point in modern history, and it was great to see Hooper’s film explore something that isn’t really spoken about, or at least known by the general audiences today. What’s more, it created a relationship between two men who would not have come into contact otherwise. The class divides were very much a thing in the 1930s and Lionel and Bertie would never been in the same circles to have met if it were not for Bertie’s speech impediment. And their scenes together will go into comedy legend. They’re electric, Firth and Rush are royally good.
Written by David Seidler (Tucker: The Man and his Dream) and directed Tom Hooper (Les Misérables), The King’s Speech is the ideal blend of comedy and drama. There’s one scene when Logue sees that when Bertie swears he does not stutter. He exploits that and gets Bertie to swear his heart out, uttering all kinds of F-words and shits, and then comes out with a very high class utterance: “well, bloody bugger to you beastly bastards”. When posh people swear, it works for a very funny turn of events, especially when they’re “royal assholes”, as Rush puts it when he sits in a sacred chair at the Abbey. Colin Firth (Pride and Prejudice) and Geoffrey Rush (The Book Thief) are one of film’s best pairs in the last ten years for sure.
The King’s Speech is unarguably one of the best films in the last ten years and one of the best biopics since Schindler’s List. Masterpiece is a term thrown around a lot in film circles and I will throw it around one more time for this picture. It has one of the best, ensemble, British casts I’ve seen in a while. In addition to the ones mentioned, we’ve also got Derek Jacobi (Gathering Storm), Adrian Scarborough (Notes on a Scandal), and Timothy Spall (Denial) as Winston bloody Churchill, with Andrew Havill (My Cousin Rachel) as Robert Wood. Cast aside, it also wins with pacing. Films of this nature have a capacity to be boring to general audiences but the pacing helps it in being an engaging film for viewers of all ages.
The relationship between George (Bertie) and Edward is also well explored, giving us that he stammers more around his brother. Everyone has a person in their life who pushes them. In this case, Edward is Bertie’s demon who makes his issue worse. What it makes it worse is that Edward put love over duty and nobody can really make him feel any sense of sorrow for his actions. He was just a man who fell in love. Though, the reason his family took it so badly was because she was common and American. The exposition of Edward and Wallis only enhances TV shows like The Crown, wherein their togetherness created a scandal and he’s forced to flee to America far from his family so he can’t be a nuisance.
This is an inspiring tale of courage, hope and one man’s will to conquer his fears. From the acting to the score (Alexandre Desplat) to the period set and costume to design to its depiction of The Family, The King’s Speech is a five-star movie and a picture that I’ll rewatch until my heart contents.