06 January 2012

The King's Speech (starring Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush and Helena Bonham Carter)

I don't think it would ever occur to us to have watched this film, but for the separate recommendations of both our sons. We are far from royalists, and would not have imagined that scenes in life of King George VI would have been remotely appealing, despite the excellent reviews and Oscars accorded this film. But we trust our sons' tastes, so it went on my wishlist, and I was given it for Christmas. Last night, we decided to watch it.

The story is probably well-known, based as it is on history. It begins when George VI (known to his family as 'Bertie), who is brilliantly portrayed by Colin Firth, attempts to make a speech on the newly-popular 'wireless'. He has a bad stammer, made worse when he is nervous, and the speech is a disaster.

Bertie has a supportive wife - the future Queen Elizabeth whom I knew of only as the Queen Mother - also very well cast as Helen Bonham Carter. She is determined that somehow her husband's stammer must be curable, although he has been to many speech therapists already, and tried both orthodox and unorthodox methods. Finally she comes across Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush) who says that, yes, he can cure her husband but only on his own terms...

The film is set firmly in historical context, with snippets of actual speeches made by royalty and also by Hitler in the period preceding the Second World War. While, undoubtedly, many liberties were taken with reality, the underlying story gives a very moving tale of a shy man who suffered from a strict father and bullying brother, forced into situations he hated. Bertie suffers from explosive anger at times, and it's clear that the stammer is psychological in origin; it becomes markedly worse under times of stress.

I was absolutely gripped by this film, from beginning to end. There's humour here and there, there's pathos, there's a depth of understanding of the loneliness that can come with positions of authority. The royal family come across as real, believable people who are who they are by an accident of birth, often deeply distressed by the responsibilities they must carry.

Very highly recommended indeed. It's rated 12 in the UK, which slightly surprised me because, although there are no violent or sexual scenes, there is quite a string of extreme bad language used more than once in (as the back of the box states) 'a speech therapy context'. However, most 12-year-olds would be well aware of these words, and there is certainly nothing in the film that is unsuitable, content-wise. In America, however, where 'strong language' is evidently considered more of a problem, the film is rated 'R'.

Review copyright Sue's DVD Reviews

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