Rating: 4 stars out of 5
Public speaking is a crippling fear that everyone can relate to, but try to imagine just how much worse it must be like for a stutterer. Now imagine you, the stutterer, were born into a leadership role that thrusts you into the public eye of oratory politics, with an entire nation seeking your voice for reassurance in a time of impending crisis. It’s enough pressure to make blue blood boil.
The King’s Speech tells the true story of The Duke of York, Prince Albert (Colin Firth), third in line to the throne after his father King George V (Micahel Gambon) and his playboy brother Edward, Prince of Wales (Guy Pearce). Affectionately known as Bertie to family and friends, the prince has been afflicted with a chronic stammer since childhood. It’s a debilitating impediment that has brought him nothing but shame and ridicule.
As his father points out, it’s hard for royalty now in the 20s’ and 30s’ with the advent of modern contraptions such as the wireless radio. “Used to be...a king just had to look good in uniform and not fall off his horse,” bemoans the elder monarch. Now kings were expected to address the public and, gasp, actually communicate with his subjects regularly and eloquently.
With a second great war looming, his father’s ailing health and his brother’s general nonchalance towards his stately duties, Bertie fears that he may be one day be called upon to lead his countrymen during a time when the calm, authoritative elocution of their beloved king is needed the most. It’s a duty that Bertie simply cannot live up to.
Microphones are filmed as cold, menacing apparatus – zoomed in on, as if to emphasise how much it looms large over our protagonist’s trepidation. Bertie tries his best when the movie opens during a 1925 speech at Wembley Stadium, but the awkwardness of his stammer and loud echo of his jittery syllables over the unforgiving loudspeakers is simply horrific to behold. One develops sweaty palms just witnessing the discomfort this brings to Bertie and his audience.
His supportive wife (Helena Bonham Carter) has convinced him to see every speech therapist imaginable to no avail. One physician even advises Bertie to pick up smoking as it “relaxes the larynx and gives you confidence.” He says this before he shoves Bertie’s mouth full of marbles which is enough to convince the prince that the doctor has lost his.
Things seem hopeless until Bertie reluctantly meets with unorthodox Australian speech therapist Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush). Logue insists that they disregard his status as royalty during sessions, a condition that prickles the arrogance of the future king but is entirely necessary in order to get him to open up to Logue’s strange methods.
The brilliance of this movie lies only partly with its underdog tale of overcoming disability. Mostly though, it’s the blossoming friendship between Bertie and commoner Logue that’s fascinating to behold. Bertie clearly has never had an outside friend before and Logue obviously has never had one whom he has to call Your Majesty. It’s a dynamic that causes them to butt heads frequently, but beyond the arguments you sense an overwhelming affection these men have for each other.
Colin Firth is once again splendid in his performance here, after his similarly breathtaking turn in A Single Man last year. It’s the type of understated yet exceptionally eye-catching work that’s already bagged him another Oscar nomination. After you’ve seen The King’s Speech, one can hardly find a reason to deny him that trophy.
Tom Hooper’s handsome direction should also be resoundingly praised - this a period piece that not only gleams in its historical details but basks in the uniformly fantastic performances that Hooper draws out of his entire cast. Best known for his work in the fabulous HBO mini-series John Adams, this marvellous film should finally get Hooper the feature attention he deserves.
The King’s Speech follows a predictable route but it’s an enrapturing one nonetheless. Once Bertie delivers his climatic speech, preparing a fearful country for war with Germany, those in cinema seats will undoubtedly feel an urge to rise and applaud, just as his countrymen did outside Buckingham Palace in 1939.
About Hidzir Junaini
Hidzir Junaini is 24-years-old and a wealthy playboy billionaire by day and a caped crusader by night. Only one of those is true. He’s actually a freelance writer, blogger, full-time film buff and some-time socially awkward nerd. He also writes about music, restaurants and nightlife for MetroWize Asia.
Hidzir was the winner of the inaugural inSing Movie Lover contest that garnered over 1,000 participants. The Movie Lover contest is a search for a candidate who possesses outstanding passion for movies and a talent for writing engaging movie reviews.
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