First published on MattsMovieReviews.net
King George VI (Colin Firth) ascension to the throne is a fascinating saga in British royal history. With Hitler threatening war against England, and brother Prince Edward (Guy Pearce) embroiled in a scandalous affair with a twice divorced American, it would be up to “Bertie” (as he was affectionately known) to take the reins and lead his people.
Looking back, it almost seems by design that this King would lead during a time when new forms of technology were utilised by the media to literally spread the King’s speech. When the people were looking for a leader, they received a man who embodied their struggles in the form of a debilitating stammer, the kind that would sever words with an almost violent ferocity (no doubt he would embrace Facebook).
That he would go on to overcome this battle was an example of persistence in motion and courage in conviction that would have no doubt moved his subjects, as it does us the viewer.
Yet all great triumphs start from the beginning, and it is through a public speech at the 1925 Wembley Exhibition that we first feel the gut wrenching humiliation and struggle which was a part of Bertie’s existence, Firth nailing the complex role with pitch perfect precision in body language, emotion, and of course that famous stammer.
With his wife Elizabeth by his side (played by a wonderfully refined Helena Bonham Carter), Bertie exhausts all scientific means of speech therapy. A last resort is found in Australian speech therapist Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush), whose unconventional methods leads to real change and taps into the psychological and even physical torture which Bertie has endured.
Through this often tumultuous friendship is where The King’s Speech finds its heartbeat, Rush contemplating Firth’s reserve with a spirited turn full of soul and humour, yet never over the top in that awards reel sort of way.
It is thanks to director Tom Hooper’s (The Damned United) insistence that The King’s Speech not follow the path of previous royal dramas which makes it such an invigorating watch, opting for a more intimate, human approach towards his characters, and a tangible sense of time and place in its environment.
While lavish in set design and innovative in its approach to camera shots and cinematography (courtesy of Danny Coen), it is that intimacy found within these characters which makes this King’s struggle that much palpable, and its payoff that much more sweeter.
The King’s Speech is released in Australia on December 26th
Director: Tom Hooper
Cast: Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush, Helena Bonham Carter, Guy Pearce, Michael Gambon
Read Matthew’s interview with director Tom Hooper here