2010, 12A, Directed by Tom Hooper
Starring: Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush, Helena Bonham Carter, Guy Pearce
On the surface, one may suspect Tom Hooper’s The King’s Speech to be another in a long line of royal dramas, in which we learn about yet another slice of history we maybe did not need to know. I urge you, however to look deep beneath the surface, for although our characters here are royalty, I doubt they have ever been so hugely humanised before. This is largely in part due to the plot, in which Bertie– the Duke of York and son of King George V - struggles with the pressure of being next in line after his anarchic brother Edward (a sneering Guy Pearce) due to a hindering stammer that prevents him from even being able to read his daughters a bedtime story. A nation wracked with fear of an oncoming war need a King to look to, and one with a voice. The eventual King George VI is played to utter perfection by Colin Firth who really has never been better and is residing at the top of his game. We feel every stutter, every hesitance and every frustration Bertie emanates that by the film’s climactic Speech of the title, we are invested. It is to as much credit that that can be thrown Firth’s way that the lines – when agonisingly delivered – perfectly pinpoint the targeted emotion; you will frown, bawl and howl. The support is just as magnificent: ever-reliable Helena Bonham Carter as Bertie’s reassuring wife (and future Queen Mother) provides a comforting presence, but it is Geoffrey Rush as speech therapist Lionel Logue that will become the film’s unsung hero. From the moment we first see him emerge from the loo to meet an unlikely customer, to the closing shot, we have no reason to ever doubt him. Logue is a good man, an honest man – a bloody hilarious man(he wants his shilling!). Then there’s the direction; you will be shocked how cinematic Hooper has managed to make this. Inspired shots fill the screen (a montage sequence of Logue’s workshop with Bertie, in which he uses a wall cleverly to replace cuts), and the King’s actual Speech is about as tense as Rocky’s final boxing match - if not, more. It is these real characters brought to life by glowing performances that will evolve The King’s Speech into a film for the ages.
As for Firth, he is most certainly next in line for the Academy Awards acting throne.