The King's Speech

Written by Emily Sutton on 17 December 2010 in Culture
Emily Sutton enjoys a superbly well-acted movie about shy Bertie's transformation into George VI

Directed by Tom Hooper and starring Colin Firth, Helena Bonham Carter and Michael Gambon

The film opens at the at the 1925 Empire Exhibition in Wembley Stadium, as the Duke of York (Firth) takes to the microphone to deliver the closing address. The prince - Bertie to his family - starts to nervously stammer his way through the speech.

With the introduction of the wireless radio, it becomes vital that Bertie is able to deliver a speech without stammering in order to save the monarchy from embarrassment. After consulting various speech therapists who are unable to cure Bertie's impediment, his ever-loving and devoted wife (Bonham Carter) consults the unorthodox Australian speech therapist Lionel Logue, played by Geoffrey Rush. Logue not only treats Bertie's speech problem but also tackles his lack of self-belief and other underline psychological and emotional issues that plague the prince.

The film follows the unlikely friendship of the prince and his therapist through the death of King George V, the accession of Bertie's brother David (Edward VIII, played by Guy Pearce), the constitutional turmoil caused by David's relationship with Wallis Simpson and his subsequent abdication. Reluctantly, Bertie is plunged into a situation where he must take the crown and unite the British Empire in the face of the threat from Hitler's Germany.

This film is leading the British charge for the award season. It has scooped five awards at the British Independent Film Awards and Hollywood is already talking about Oscars. This comes as no surprise; the script is tight and witty with the banter between Bertie and Logue igniting an electric and charming chemistry between Firth and Rush.

Colin Firth is outstanding as King George. It's a role he can truly get his teeth into, finally proving he's more than just Bridget Jones's Mr Darcy.

But it is Geoffrey Rush who steals the show as the enigmatic and pushy therapist. His comic timing keeps the laughter rolling while providing great depth and heart at the centre of this well-paced drama. Rush is fully deserving of any awards that come his way.

The other award-worthy performance is Helena Bonham Carter as Bertie's supportive and loving wife Elizabeth. Bonham Carter delivers Elizabeth's acid-tongued and quick wit superbly, allowing us a peek of a much warmer Elizabeth than many would believe of the real future Queen Mother.

Supported by a great British cast including Michael Gambon and Derek Jacobi you can forgive the odd casting of Timothy Spall as Churchill and Guy Pearce's somewhat off-putting performance as David, both of whom fail to convince.

The film sheds light on one of the most private royals of recent years who overcame great personal struggles, reluctantly accepting his place as King and uniting his country, providing faith and hope through one of the darkest periods of modern history, the Second World War.

A must see for monarchists and film lovers alike.

The King's Speech is in cinemas from 7 January 2011

This article was first published in Total Politics magazine.

Tags: Colin Firth, George VI, Issue 31, The King's Speech

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