The King’s Speech
Every holiday season needs that film that promises to make the spirit soar. And in a year where the major awards contenders are films about insanity, gritty westerns, and loneliness, this is even more true. Thanks must go to our friends on the other side of the pond for exporting this inspirational, and quite brilliant film just in time seasonal celebrations.
Boiled down to it’s core, The King’s Speech, directed by Tom Hooper of The Damned United, is the story of a budding relationship between a speech therapist and a king, a buddy film if you will. Unlikely circumstances bring the two together in a consociation that helps overcome obstacles at the most dire of times. It examines the events surrounding Albert Frederick Arthur George (King George VI), as his father, King George V, passes, his brother’s abdicates the throne, and the beginning of World War II against Hitler’s Germany. Bertie (as Albert Frederick Arthur George is known to friends and family) suffers from a severe speech impediment, and works faithfully in order to overcome it. For, as the film intimates, a country cannot gather a unified front against an enemy in war, without a man talented at public speaking leading them.
Of all the film’s wonderful assets, the most deserving of attention is the lovely cinematography of Danny Cohen, and Hooper’s remarkable ability to fill up a screen in the most pleasing compositions. The film, taking place in London, is filmed in the hazy grays we’ve come to associate with the rainy island, allowing for light manipulation that brings an atmosphere that nearly takes center stage over the actors and script. Hooper truly is a visual artist, I could spend a great deal of time, beyond the length of Speech looking at his framing on screen.
It helps the film as whole to have such an outstanding cast. The rumors of Helena Bonham Carter’s performance are everything they’ve purported, and more. She most certainly deserves some special attention from Oscar. It seems without the overbearing and zany vision of her husband, Tim Burton, she’s liberated to reach levels of acting we’ve only seen hints of in her earlier work. And Colin Firth, who showed us shades of his serious side in last year’s A Single Man, continues his path into territory reserved for the very best actors and actresses working today. Guy Pearce as Edward VIII, and Timothy Spall as Winston Churchhill offer strong performances in their supporting roles as well.
The screenplay, by David Seidler has such a surety in it’s direction, it manages to make Bertie’s triumph over his impediment eclipse, in importance, the gravitas of the real world events that keep brushing up against the king and his speech coach. At first glance, it seems a bit trivial to focus on the fluidity of a king’s speech when Nazi’s are waging war. But we know the outcome of that. And The King’s Speech doesn’t have any interest in making a statement about it. What it attempts to do it show a remarkable story of humanity and friendship, that just happens to be backdropped by world events relevant to everyone person the film will ever be seen by. It succeeds admirably in all it’s undertakings. It really is the inspirational film of the year.