If Helen Mirren’s performance in The Queen or Cate Blanchett’s in Elizabeth have taught us anything, it’s that the way to guarantee as oscar nomination is to play an English monarch. This week saw Colin Firth gain his second oscanation in a row for playing George VI in The King’s Speech. But how worthy are he and the film of all the praise that’s been heaped upon them?
The King’s Speech is about one man’s battle with a speech impediment. Albert (who later took the title George VI) has been battling with the problem his whole life, with no doctor been able to help him.
His wife Elizabeth (who would go on to become known as The Queen Mother) gets an Australian called Lionel Logue recommended to her. Lionel’s methods and abrasive nature cause Albert to quit after just one session. However, the two soon reunite and form an unlikely friendship which becomes the key to helping Albert overcome his speech.
Perhaps one of the reasons the film has been so successful is that both of The King’s Speech‘s main characters are just as wary of the royal traditions as we might be.
Lionel has no time for the airs and graces normally associated with talking to a member of the royal family. He believes Albert’s problems are psychological, not physical, and thinks that kind of formality will hinder the two of them from identifying why it is the future King finds it so difficult to speak without stuttering.
Albert, likewise, has no desire to become King. He does not believe that he, the nervous younger brother, has what it takes to rule the British Empire. So when his older brother decides to abdicate, it is with a heavy heart he fulfils his duty to his country.
The way the film builds to the speech of the film’s title is superbly done. While other films might finish with an action sequence, chase scene, or shoot out, The King’s Speech manages to garner far more excitement and satisfaction from a scene which is ultimately just one man talking.
If the film teaches us anything, it’s that words matter. Whether it’s the Gettysburg address, or a Nuremberg rally, speeches have the power for both incredible good and incredible evil. George VI’s speech marked the beginning of a period of time in Britain that was the most difficult and defining of the past hundred years. In hearing him overcome his own frailties while delivering his speech, it is likely many were given the strength to overcome theirs.
The King’s Speech is a great story, based around a fascinating relationship, which is excellently told. It is one of those rare films which I believe has universal appeal. It is for that reason it may well be known as the Best Picture of 2010 after this year’s academy awards.