(Tom Hooper, UK, 2010)
Amidst an awards season awash with grit, ballet and social networking, little did anyone know that a relatively small-scale movie about a relatively small-scale problem faced by one of Britain’s most admired monarchs would make such a huge impact on cinemagoers worldwide. Already a hit whether it wins big come this year’s Academy Awards or not, The King’s Speech proves that you don’t need explosions, CGI and dreaded 3D technology to tell a compelling story about overcoming your inadequacies and finding your inner voice.
Set during the wartime era of 1920’s Britain, Colin Firth plays King George VI; a royal who has the customary duties of giving public speeches but suffers from an emotionally-driven and incredibly debilitating stammer, an embarrassing setback that he hopes to remedy by enlisting the services of Lionel Logue, a failed Australian actor who has uncouth methods of speech therapy. What follows is a touching, humorous and elegant account of this man’s struggle to overcome his demons and adhere to his duties, told with visual finesse and effortlessly directed by Brit Tom Hooper, whose previous film was the superb Brian Clough picture The Damn United.
Though the true story on which the film is based can be accused of being somewhat similar to a mellow Sunday night TV drama, which The Queen was accused of a few years ago, Hooper’s ability to make even the most everyday situations look and feel engaging lends The King’s Speech its cinematic edge. This is easily demonstrated during the films gripping final moments, in which King George dramatically announces to the world that Britain has declared war on Germany. It is a powerful sequence that unites all the finest elements of cinema and compliments Firth’s superlative performance, a performance that will hopefully earn Firth the Oscar he unfortunately lost out to last year for A Single Man.
The acting on display is of course top notch, from Geoffrey Rush’s likeable, assured performance as Logue (instantly gelling with Firth), to Helena Bonham Carter’s subtle, poised and charming embodiment of the Queen mother, a role which has been rarely portrayed on screen. It goes without saying that chemistry between the three leads is rife, and this is extended to an incredibly able supporting cast that includes Derek Jacobi, Guy Pierce and Michael Gambon. Even if Timothy Spall’s impersonation of Winston Churchill is a little jarring and bends all too easily to caricature, he is still as watchable as ever.
An intelligent, highly entertaining start to an awards season that looks to be one of the most heated in recent memory, The King’s Speech is the type of film that has become somewhat synonymous with British filmmaking; fresh and audacious, regal and perceptive. Heart-warming is an oft used term used these days to describe movies that are anything but, yet it is a very apt description of a film that preaches the importance of family and the endurance of friendship in the most crowd pleasing of ways.