When we hear the term “underdog story,” we think more of athletes rather than British monarchs. But The King’s Speech proves that actual royalty sometimes faces immense challenges to rise to power for the greater good—and that those challenges can indeed be met. This fact-based drama takes a look at what one royal family member struggled with, how he came to be king, how he overcame his challenges, and the unlikely friendship he developed with someone who helped him along the way.
Tom Hooper directs this visually stunning cinematic piece with a simple-to-follow yet powerful story and screenplay written by David Seidler. Set in 1930s Britain, George (Colin Firth), the Duke of York, battles a life-long speech impediment—a stammer, to be exact. After having to deliver one particularly painful address in front of an audience, his wife Elizabeth (Helena Bonham Carter) takes him to a speech therapist, Lionel (Geoffrey Rush). Impatient and frustrated, George initially brushes off Lionel’s efforts to assist him, but soon realizes that he might be on to something. Going in for subsequent visits, Lionel uses a variety of unconventional techniques to help George overcome his stammer, from lying down on the floor to having him sing songs. The need to overcome the stammer becomes more urgent than ever for George after his father King George V (Michael Gambon) dies and the younger George must take the throne against his own wishes. Guy Pearce, Derek Jacobi, and Timothy Spall co-star.
Though I felt that there were problems with pacing shortly after the opening scene, everything about The King’s Speech is engaging and creates a well-rounded period piece, although driven by story, dialogue, acting, and visual elements. The elaborate costumes, set designs, and cinematography truly make the film beautiful, plus with the context of the radio being a new invention at the time, there’s a feeling of being right there and living in 1930s Britain. Though billed as a drama, there are definitely cheeky moments, particularly to show the budding friendship between George and Lionel. A montage and many other key scenes give a look at the interesting process of speech therapy. As mentioned previously, the story flows neatly, but just because it does doesn’t mean it isn’t deep or emotional. Firth really lives up to the early Best Actor hype, having to play a historical figure with speech difficulties and acting out the disbelief in his character’s self and his breakdowns. We really feel what he’s feeling. His performance truly reaches out and holds on to the audience, which is deserving of an honor. The rest of the primary cast is as admirable and natural as they come.
It plays out like any other underdog story you’d see, except this one is a true story about British royalty and has the look and feel of an oil painting on canvas and in a golden frame. The King’s Speech is not only a drama about a part of history that many people may not be aware of, but is also a moving story of how struggle can turn into triumph and how people can lift someone else up. It’s fine cinema that’s insightful as it is unexpectedly but pleasantly inspirational.
OVERALL SCORE: 8.5/10