When a king speaks, he must command attention. Though the British monarchy may be more iconography than anything else at this point in history, people will still look to their royal leader for guidance and reassurance in times of woe and doubt. That’s a lot of pressure for someone who may never have wanted to assume the responsibility to begin with. Unfortunately for King George VI, his birthright meant he did not have any choice in the matter. It’s not that he didn’t think he could do it; it’s just that he wasn’t confidant enough to think anyone would care to have him.
Forget the king; when director Tom Hooper speaks, he has my full attention. After his impressive first feature last year, “The Damned United”, Hooper continues his journey in regal fashion with “The King’s Speech” and delivers the goods right from the start. Colin Firth, who could easily garner another Oscar nod with his heartbreaking work here, is the Duke of York. It is 1925 and he is about to address the nation. The tension builds and by the time he gets to the podium, every ear in the land appears to be waiting to hear what he has to say. At first, there is nothing. What follows that awkwardness is a disjointed, passionless address that he stammers all the way through. It may not be as epic a global failure as modern day technology allows but enough people were listening to make it seem like a public collapse that he might never recover from.
He almost didn’t. King George VI went through many speech therapists before landing on Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush). Logue helps George break down the years of subtle abuse one suffers as the son of a king to see that his speech impediment is the result of isolation and lack of confidence, not something particularly physical. Their banter is at times hilarious and at others quite intense. Their immense combined talent, along with supporting turns from Helena Bonham Carter and Guy Pearce, give “The King’s Speech” even more depth and flourish than Hooper already has. Together, they created a film that will certainly resonate long after it’s said what it has to say.
Review by Joseph Bélanger