Wednesday, 19 January 2011

THE KING'S SPEECH (2010) - 5 STARS

"When God couldn't save The King, The Queen turned to someone who could"


Every year there always seems to be one great British film that comes out and truly dominates and entertains us. This year has been no exception thanks to the fantastic line-up of films nominated for British Film at the upcoming BAFTA awards. The one big film though that leads the pack is historical drama The King's Speech which introduced me to the courageous story of a royal monarch frightened of his own destiny of becoming future king and relying on the support of those close to him. This story however not only deals with the monarch's destiny but mostly focuses on his bid to overcome a crippling stammer which required his patience and the firm help of his family to gain confidence as the future king of England. Like previous uplifting British films such as Chariots of Fire (1981), The Full Monty (1997) and Slumdog Millionaire (2008), this latest piece of marvelous British film-making allows us to sympathise with the leading characters and let us cheer spontaneously as proven by the mass elderly audience who watched it with me, enchanted by the light-hearted yet inspiring story told before them.


The opening scene introduces us to the Duke Of York (Colin Firth) who fails to give a speech on the radio because of his life-long stutter. Years later, after trying and failing with different doctors to help him, the Duke (titled as George VI) refuses anymore help, yet his supportive wife Elizabeth (Helena Bonham Carter) continues to seek outside help and gets it from experienced Australian speech therapist Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush). It proves to be a long winding process as George shows reluctance in getting help from Logue but over the course of the film, they become closer as men and understand what the other goes through. Soon George gains the confidence to start speaking more clearly at public speeches but his royal destiny becomes a burden for him firstly with the death of his father (Michael Gambon) and then his brother Edward (Guy Pearce) taking over as king only to resign from the role because of his ambition to marry a divorced American woman. This leaves George with the added pressure of being named as King of England despite not having fully overcome his speech impediment but the courageous support of Logue and Elizabeth leaves us wondering if he'll pull through and prepare his country for dark times ahead.


Feel-good is one of many words to describe this special film which continues to allow British films to be made with such a credited set-up whether it be through the writing, the directing, the acting or the production design. But it certainly has all that, and pulls it off wonderfully well through its clever combination of comedy and drama. As a narrative it lets us take a look at a well-known royal family and gives a rare glimpse into the lives of people we wouldn't otherwise observe up close, we are more sympathetic of this royal family then we were with the one in The Queen (2006). Little known director Tom Hooper escalaltes his reputation as a rising director with ambition thanks to another fine piece of film art. Having directed the solid The Damned United last year, he again continues to focus his film on history this time going a few more years back and working with some fine actors who are on the top of their game here. Firth as the struggling monarch has played underdog men before, but his performance is distinguished through his extraordinary physical constraints. His stammering alone is heartbreaking to watch and listen to. Yet the way Firth struggles with his own body, trying to wrench the words out from his lungs, is what makes his work truly powerful and surely is set to land him this year's Best Actor Oscar. Rush though is equally as good giving great support to Firth as the sarcastic but determined therapist adding wry humour and pushiness during his duo scenes with the other. Bonham-Carter shines too with a sweet and loyal performance that is less loud or energetic as her roles in Harry Potter and Alice In Wonderland. The rest of the supporting cast do an impressive job too with Guy Pearce giving a small but effective performance as George's selfish brother Edward with Timothy Spall, Michael Gambon and Derek Jacobi involved too. One other important element that adds to the beauty of the film is Alexandre Desplat's delicate score, which combines his own compositions with fantastic pieces of classical music that really work well to enhance the emotions of the story.


Criticism is hard to come by with this film though the fact it is shot like a television movie adds to that factor which cases to wonder whether it suits being on the small screen or not. It also tends to drag but that shouldn't put people off watching it though the sad reality is it only appeals to a more elderly audience as proven at the cinema I watched it at. Summing it up though, the human aspect of the film makes us realise how important it was through the emergence of a deep friendship out of a professional relationship between two men who would otherwise never have socially interacted. The entire movie is a perfect blend of history, personal and family unity drama, with broader themes of defiance and overcoming struggle which give it a timeless appreciation that should become beloved for years to come. Long live the king!

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