The King’s Speech

Unlike the King, TADHGH BARWELL O’CONNOR can get his words out. Lucky us.

british Colin Firth Film geoffrey rush george helena bonham carter king oscars tadhgh barwell o'connor the king's speech

Directed by Tom Hooper


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An impediment of any kind can be debilitating in public, yet none more so than one affecting your speech. Bertie, the soon to be King George VI, has stammered all his life. With his brother’s sudden abdication from power, he has to assume a throne he feels is not his, that he does not want and that he cannot do justice to if he continues to cower in silence.

The King’s Speech portrays the events leading up to the famous declaration to the people of Britain that “this country is now at war with Germany” – but chooses to focus on the story behind the lips that formed those words rather than the politics at play.

Bertie’s struggle to master his unaccommodating vowel forms or diphthong generations provides Colin Firth with a seemingly endless supply of fantastic character material. From the opening at The Empire Exhibition we see the strains and stress his oratory weakness causes both him and his wife, the future Queen – better known to us as the Queen’s Mother, played with utmost subtlety by Helena Bonham-Carter.

What’s more, Bertie’s family don’t seem to care: Michael Gambon’s overbearing fatherly order to “just spit it out” is painful to watch, but nowhere near as cruel and traitorous as Guy Pearce’s brotherly bullying which cuts to the quick. The saviour? Lionel Logue. An untrained, unconventional, failed actor with absolutely no care whatsoever for the establishment or formalities, a role Geoffrey Rush exuberantly controls at every moment. Together Bertie and Lionel discover how to side step the stammer with frequently hilarious scenes, including a potty mouthed moment that would normally be unbecoming for a king.

All three star performances are held up by Tom Hooper’s simple, yet devastatingly effective direction. Much of the praise must fall to Danny Cohen, who as the cinematographer simultaneously depicts the grand palaces and comparatively minute human action. The balance of the composition as a whole is beautiful, naturally building to captivating visual crescendos, cutting to new shots ever faster before being hit square on with almost perfect tableaux.

The story is clear for anyone with an ounce of British History. But this film isn’t a thriller, trying to outfox the audience at every twist and turn. It’s a poetic depiction of a man overcoming the odds, and you can’t help but be swept into his story. That said, there are some small pitfalls. Geoffrey Rush is nowhere near as Australian as the rest of his family seems to be – often gratingly so while time spent on Winston Churchill is both historically inaccurate and relatively patronizing. Also, the casting of Romona Marquez, AKA Karen from Outnumbered, as Princess Margaret is very distracting.

Shot on an incredibly small budget this film is quietly staggering, and already the Yanks are starting the Oscar call: The British are coming!