London Film Festival: The King’s Speech

Many films have taken their time to be captured on film, and many others had to wait for an appropriate release date. Some were worth the wait (Avatar) and some others not so much (Wolfman). The King’s Speech is a masterpiece and well worth the wait, after sitting a long, long time on paper before it was time to pick it up and film it.

The Queen Mother requested that a film accounting the events of the abdication and her husband overcoming his stammer, not be made during her lifetime because the memories were too painful to relive. It’s been many years in the making, but The King’s Speech is finally here directed by Tom Hooper who is best well known for his TV dramas like Elizabeth 1 and Cold Feet. It just so happens to have some perfect casting which has ensured that the performances alone make it worth the ticket price. Already there is Oscar whispers in the air for Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush.

1925, George VI (Firth), or Bertie as his family called him is crippled by an overwhelming stammer, making it impossible for him to make public announcements without embarrassment. His loyal and loving wife Elizabeth (Helena Bonham Carter) has desperately been trying all kinds of doctors and speech therapists in the hope of curing her husbands’ disability, and as an almost last hope finds a poor Australian named Lionel Logue (Rush) with unusual and unorthodox practices. When Bertie’s elder brother Edward (Guy Pearce) ascends the throne after the death of their father King George V (Micheal Gambon) in 1936, it is not long before Bertie is called on to take his brothers’ place a King of England when Edward announces his desire to marry a divorcee and abdicate the throne.

There are many amiable qualities to this film being a great success. There are beautiful costumes to keep period drama lovers happy and the script is witty and intelligent. It’s the leading cast members in The Kings Speech that make the film what it is, and the supporting cast are also magnificent. Each of the three leading performances are superb. Bonham-Carter’s Elizabeth is a beautifully subtle and charming portrait of a woman whom this country later came to love so much for her work during the Second World War. Although she is a supporting character, she is no less important in the development of George’s journey to self discovery, and Bonham-Carter deserves recognition as a leading lady in her own right.

For the men, it seems Firth and Rush were born to play these roles, and both will undoubtedly get much award recognition for their work and quite rightly so. Rush’s interpretation of Logue is engaging and sweet, and the relationship that forms between his Logue and Firth’s Bertie is incredibly moving and funny. Of many a marvellous scene between the two, the one that stick out is when Logue, desperately trying to coax out the frustration he has bottled up inside, gets Bertie to exercise his anger into actual words, resulting in him spewing out swear words is hysterical, and yet very moving too. Firth shows Bertie as a human being, with flaws and feelings like anyone upset or under pressure.

There are no distinctions between King and therapist, because as Logue himself points out to Bertie in their very first session together, this will only work if they treat each other as equals, and that goes the same for the film too. It takes two to tango, and a one sided relationship would be very boring.

The British public love a good period drama, and especially one about our royals because they are very close to our hearts. Yet they keep their doors closed to us, and just like Helen Mirren’s The Queen showed us, we want to see them as humans and as real people, rather than just figure heads.

Jennifer Ehle as Logue’s wife is another great addition to the cast. Those of you who are eagle eyed and were clever enough to spot, this film reunites Firth and Ehle onscreen for the first time since they starred together in the BBC’s Pride and Prejudice, which gave them both their big break. The small joke when Logue tries to hide Bertie in his house when his un-expecting wife arrives home early to find a King (and Queen) in her living room is prices less entertainment.

Supported by a wonderful British and Australian army-like cast with the likes of Pearce, Gambon and Timothy Spall as future Prime Minister Churchill, the film really is something of a masterpiece. Released in January next year, The King’s Speech is drama of the year, and definitely a best film contender for 2011.

The King’s Speech comes out in the US on the 26th of November and in the UK on the 11th of January 2011.