The following was originally published on Exclaim.ca.
The King’s Speech
Directed by Tom Hooper
By Jessica Lewis
The King’s Speech is a how-to on confidence and standing up to fear. Crippled by a stutter, the Duke of York (Colin Firth) must conquer this enemy in order to help his family and country, whether he wants to or not. His wife, Elizabeth (Helena Bonham Carter), happens upon Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush), and the rest is history. The contrast in confidence between Logue and the Duke, whom he calls Bertie, is clear, with pity for the stuttering man evident as he produces word vomit. It comes so simply: break into a man’s psyche and inside lies the answer. “Do you hesitate when you think?” Logue asks Bertie. “How about when you talk to yourself?” The Duke reveals his temper and extreme vulnerability, declaring, “no one can fix it!” Bertie has a lot on his plate, with brother David (Guy Pearce) infatuated with an American divorcee, a love that causes him to abdicate the throne shortly after his father, King George V (Michael Gambon), passes away. The childhood issues between the brothers and Bertie and his parents are tackled in fascinating back-and-forth discussions with Logue (“you don’t need to be afraid of the things you were afraid of when you were five”) or tension, such as when Bertie visits David (then declared King Edward VIII), confronts him and the King responds that he’s just “King-ing.” The Duke’s fear of his family is heartbreaking, coated in gloomy indoor scenes of homes that should be more comforting. When he goes outside, he’s met by a foggy world full of lost faces of “the common man” and trees being cut down. When Bertie becomes King George VI, he must dodge the glances of everyone around him. But it’s the support of Queen Elizabeth and Logue that ultimately “saves the King,” who realizes that he speaks for his people as well as himself. The film won four Academy Awards ― Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Director and Best Original Screenplay ― all deserved. It may come across as a stuffy film tapped to tug at our common man heartstrings, but the passion that comes out of a movie about tackling a stutter is beautiful. Firth’s dedication to adapting the impediment is very well done (he laughs on the DVD Q&A, “there’s not a lot of information on how to stutter”), Bonham Carter is an elegant backbone and Rush is comedic and secure ― watching them interact together is lovely. The three actors gracefully represent a royal family in the public eye and must have been a wonder for director Tom Hooper to work with. The DVD includes a cast Q&A and the standard talking about the film, which doesn’t tell us much more than we already know. But the piece on Mark Logue (the grandson who discovered Logue and Bertie’s documents) proves more interesting. And if you’re into authenticity, there are two of King George VI’s speeches, including the one that declares him “a conqueror of words.”