Period pieces that come out just in time for the Oscars don’t get me too excited. The King’s Speech was no exception. Even once I received the disc from Netflix, I had it for almost a month before I finally caved in and watched it. I’m happy I did.
Colin Firth plays King George VI, a man who struggled with a terrible stammer since a young age. In fact, before Firth becomes king in the film, we watch as he struggles to give public speeches. The camera work makes us feel the full emotion of the struggle as it gets catastrophically close. There is nowhere to hide, not for Firth, not for us. Meanwhile, King George V is getting older and losing his health. He has two sons, one (Guy Pearce) a loose canon with little interest in royalty beyond the exploits it affords him, and the other (Firth) who seems destined for the throne except for that one nagging problem – he can’t speak a complete sentence without stammering through it.
Firth’s wife (Helena Bonham Carter) pushes for Firth to get help. She seeks out the best therapist in the land and this leads her to Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush), an Australian who has some seemingly unusual tactics for helping his patients overcome their speech impediments. Like any film where we have an underdog student and an unorthodox teacher, there is the fairly typical progression in the budding relationship between the two and the improvement in the student. Thankfully the director (Tom Hooper) never over does it and the acting never goes into the dreaded territory of “Oscar bait” performances. The relationship between Firth and Rush’s characters is believable and enjoyable to watch, even when you know exactly where the story is headed.
True, The King’s Speech has some trite scenes but they never left me rolling my eyes or ruining the story as a whole. And the final triumphant scene (sorry if that spoils it for you) is rather subtle, especially when you consider sports themed films that follow a similar narrative which culminate in manipulative melodrama. The King’s Speech isn’t perfect but it is one of those movies that is very hard not to enjoy.