Posted by: Paul | January 12, 2011

The King’s Speech

Had the night off last night, Adam packed off to stay with the grandparents so we could go and see this, currently doing great business at the box office and prompting talk of Oscars for some of those involved. Our usually reliable local cinema almost let us down though as the picture was wobbly and out of focus to start with, causing whispers of frustration from the capacity crowd. First time I’ve been to a sell-out showing of anything for years – isn’t there some historic correlation between a recession and a boom in the fortunes of the cinema?

Anyway, it’s 1925 and ‘Bertie’ (Colin Firth) has a problem. His Father, King George V, made his first ever radio broadcast and wants to make sure his sons are prepared to do the same. As a boy, Prince Albert / The Duke of York (I can’t get my head around these multiple royal names) developed a severe stammer, resulting in bullying by his other siblings which exacerbated the problem. When George V dies, his flaky older brother David ascends the throne as Edward VIII, gallavanting about with American divorcee Wallis Simpson, and we all know what happened after that…

After a disastrous public address at the 1925 Empire Exhibition at Wembley (the sequence for which features excellent sound design), Bertie’s wife engages the services of unorthodox Australian speech therapist Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush), in a last ditch attempt to help him cope with it in order that he might discharge his duty a little more easily. The two develop an awkward, but quite touching relationship, where the trappings and titles of royalty are put aside and they are simply two men, one trying to help the other.

This was rather good, and very funny in places. More than a story about the British Royal Family, it’s the story of a man trying to overcome buried fears and to cope with the weight of expectation of him. Some really do have greatness thrust upon them, and when his brother abdicates Bertie becomes the most reluctant King – as he says, the only monarch to have ascended the throne in such circumstances.

With a trio of fantastic central performances – Firth’s stammer is entirely convincing, and Helena Bonham Carter made an excellent Queen Mum – The King’s Speech is a very enjoyable and somewhat uplifting watch, despite the film ending in the dark times just as WWII is about to start. It makes you forget that fact though, which also makes you aware of the shielded nature of the royal life. The subject matter was also reflected in the age of the audience – we were amongst the youngest of a very enthusiastic crowd of the middle aged and upwards. And as such, not only was this the first full house we’ve experienced in a while, but the evening ended on something you don’t often see from a modern cinema audience – a round of applause! How genteel…

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