Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Film Review — The King’s Speech

I won’t keep you in suspense. The King’s Speech is one of the best films I’ve seen in a very long time. Colin Firth as Bertie, the stammering Duke of York who became King George VI and overcame his speech impediment, is heartbreakingly good, as is Geoffrey Rush who plays Lionel Logue, his speech therapist who is unimpressed with his royal patient’s pedigree but clearly fond and supportive of his friend. Helena Bonham Carter is delightful and charming as the young Queen Elizabeth (the Queen Mother) who reaches out to find Mr. Logue to help her husband overcome his disability.

There is much more, though, to this story than just a man learning how to speak in public. The family dynamics of an overbearing father who also happens to be King George V (Michael Gambon) and a feckless older brother (Guy Pearce) who treats his duties as the heir to the throne as a way to get laid all play out like all good dramas involving families and the clash of personalities and ambition. It’s clear that Bertie’s stammer is a result of growing up terrified by his father, bullied by his brother, and dismissed by his mother (Claire Bloom), damaged and intimidated to the point that he cannot bear to hear himself speak. The therapy that Lionel Logue gives him isn’t the physical and vocal techniques that help him speak; it’s the simple act of friendship and trust.