Review: “The King’s Speech”



Very rarely are you treated to a methodical dissection of hu­man relationships in the movies. Very rarely. But when you are, it’s a visual spectacle of such insurmountable heights that you’re left breathlessly telling yourself and everyone you know, “this is how movies are supposed to be made.” The King’s Speech is a mov­ie that manages to surpass every standard of cinema. It sets itself the loftiest of ambitions, and vaults it with surprising panache. Welcome to the movie experience of the year.

The film begins with the close of the British Empire Ex­hibition at Wembley Stadium in 1925. Prince Albert, Duke of York (Colin Firth) and the second son of King George V, (Michael Gambon) is about to give the closing speech. His wife Elizabeth (Helena Bonham-Carter) tries to encourage him, but he is visibly distraught. His stammering speech is met by a momentous scream of shocked silence from the huge audience. The Duke then tries to work with various speech therapists feeling more and more antagonized with the idea of treatment as he continues. The Duchess convinces him to try one last therapist, Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush), an Aus­tralian living in London. Logue is immediately seen to have a very unique brand of treatment. He insists on calling the Duke “Bertie”, in breach of royal etiquette. Just as the Duke announces his intent to leave, Logue convinces him to read the “To be, or not to be” soliloquy from Hamlet while listen­ing to Mozart’s “The Marriage of Figaro” on headphones, so the Duke wouldn’t be able to hear himself talk. The Duke gets irritated and leaves, but not before Logue gives him the recording of his soliloquy.

King George V makes his customary Christmas address, and is exceptionally angry at his son’s inability to be able to give a speech without stammering, especially given the ris­ing importance of broadcasting. Later, Albert plays Logue’s recording of the soliloquy and is shocked to hear an almost unbroken recitation. He returns to Logue and they work together on a series of physical exercises, while also trying to understand the psychological roots of the stammer. The Duke slowly opens up, and reveals his innermost demons, his childhood secrets, and his most personal feelings to Logue.

When King George V dies, his eldest son, the Prince of Wales, (Guy Pearce) is appointed to the throne as King Ed­ward VIII. But he wants to marry Wallis Simpson (Eve Best), an American divorcée. Yet the King cannot marry a divorced woman, given that he is also the ruler of the Church in Eng­land. Logue suggests to the Duke that he might be a better king, and the Duke accuses him of treason and severs all ties with him. King Edward VIII abdicates the throne to marry Simpson, and the Duke becomes King George VI. The King and Logue now have to overcome their quar­rels, be able to trust each other and work in complete conjunction in preparation for the King’s most important speech ever: the speech announcing Britain’s entry into World War II.

The King’s Speech is nearly flawless. The act­ing is some of the best I have seen in years. Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush, Helena Bonham- Carter and all of the supporting cast (Jen­nifer Ehle, Guy Pearce) are simply flawless. I thought The Social Network was a lock for best screenplay at the Oscars, but I’m not so sure anymore. This screenplay transcends its medium in a way very few do. Tom Hooper makes some of the most fascinating directo­rial choices I’ve seen. The restriction of space, the close-ups, the positioning of the actors in each scene are so well-orchestrated to express exactly what the characters are feeling that I had goosebumps while watching it. Alexandre Desplat’s score reiterates my belief that he cannot go wrong. The production values are top-notch. Sure there are some his­torical inaccuracies, but if you’re someone who is not perfectly well-versed in this turbulent period in British history, then you probably won’t care.

The King’s Speech is uplifting, transcendental, evocative, perfectly written, very human and awe-inspiringly fleshed out. I hope you watch it, for your own sake.