Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Review of 'The King's Speech'

This was a film that was very well done and very solid as a result. I must confess that it is rather heartwarming to know that so many people are thoroughly enjoying watching the film at the cinema, when our screens have been so inundated with 3D movies of little substance and lots of visual tricks.

Well, once again I make my case for good writing acted thoroughly well. That combination is always going to work and when you consider that The King's Speech is such a contained narrative, with no subplot to speak, it can still get you emotively involved, without needing to mimic the motion of a roller-coaster.

Happy families!

The story is a simple one: King George V's son,  'Bertie', played by Colin Firth has a terrible stammer,  rendering him pretty much speechless when it comes to public speaking. The film opens to show him trying to deliver one such speech to Wembley Stadium, which is also being broadcast to the whole of the Empire. The real behind the scenes star is in fact his wife, Duchess of York (who then goes on to become Queen Elizabeth), played by Helen Bonham Carter superbly. She is the one constantly searching for someone who can help her husband and thus lands at Logue's clinic. All the scenes with her were amusing and played effortlessly, unlike Timothy Spall who had a go at doing Winston Churchill - badly. He somehow thought screwing his face up and gruffing up his voice, like some angry badger, would pass. Baffling.

The conflicts themselves aren't complicated on the surface but the film allows the sub-strata stuff to simmer underneath, so that more is said without words or over babbling by anyone. With that in mind, you begin to empathise with Firth's character who is thrust into a role of greatness that he doesn't want but gallantly steps up to, thanks to his brother relinquishing responsibility or care for anyone else. All of it is poetically depicted through the struggle for speech and the stammer representing an 'emotional' blockage thanks to a rather unpleasant childhood and being ridiculed, no doubt. The film is full of poignancy as a result, such as the scene when the new King George returns home, expecting to embrace his daughters, but they in turn curtesy to him, an act of brutal formality but sweet nonetheless.

There were lovely scenes of misty London, though I couldn't help wonder if that was employed so that any signs of modernity were blanketed out. Cinemtography brilliantly enhanced the feeling of stretched out expectations bearing down upon Bertie, with shots that tilted up or down. Sound design was also strong, such as when, in the opening scene, the stammering words from the duke just keep echoing endlessly around the stadium.  

Ultimately, it's a tale of triumph and friendship, with Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush playing off one another wonderfully with a script that is just about right from every angle, without once overdoing it. Warm fuzzies. Also, Colin Firth dons a kilt at one point, what more could you want?



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