The King's Speech
The speech in question was a crucial one: a broadcast to the nation by King George VI on the eve of World War Two. In director Tom Hooper’s hands, the story of the difficulties faced by George (Colin Firth) in overcoming a speech impediment to inspire the nation plays as heritage cinema with a feel-good twist.
Positioned for wide appeal, Hooper’s film plays down any notions of divine right, and puts the emphasis firmly on patriotic duty. The Duke of York, or Bertie as his family knew him, is introduced stammering through a public speech to disastrous effect. The support and encouragement of Queen Elizabeth (Helena Bonham Carter) isn’t enough to stop Albert’s stammer, but hidden in the crowd is Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush), an eccentric Australian speech therapist. With Logue’s professional help and friendship, Bertie is able to partially overcome his problem, but is put to a stern test after the death of his father King George V (Michael Gambon) and the abdication of his brother Edward (Guy Pearce) leaves him heir to the throne just as war approaches.
Speech therapy is hardly obvious material for a film, but Colin Firth ably uses his trademark affable charm to the difficult task of playing a character that, for most of the film’s length, struggles to get a sentence out. Singing and swearing his way through his speeches, Bertie’s sense of frustration and injured pride is palpable, amplified by a restrained supporting turn by Rush. Bonham Carter affectionately portrays the Queen Mother, Timothy Spall has fun as Winston Churchill, and there are sentimental glimpses of the current Queen at seven years old, all bedtime stories and corgis.
Not exactly innovative in presentation, nor anything other than middlebrow in ambition, The King’s Speech is a slight but moving story of a man at war with himself. The Queen Mum, perhaps understandably, wanted David Seidler’s script to remain unmade until after she died, but it’s a shame she never saw this impeccably acted and kindly meant film, which conveys a minor royal drama with admirable economy and scale.
General release, Fri 7 Dec.