It’s been said that you shouldn’t compare yourself to others because you don’t know their journey in life. “The King’s Speech” makes that point beautifully.
Prince Albert (Colin Firth) is the younger son of King George V (Michael Gambon). He is second in line for the throne of England. First is Edward (Guy Pearce), who loves a woman twice divorced. Albert is grateful to be second, as he has no desire to be king.
His lack of desire is stoked by his terrible stammer. Speaking is one of the most difficult things for him to do, and public speaking is nearly impossible.
But King George has Albert come and witness an annual Christmas message. With the introduction of radio, the message goes out live to all the nations of the empire. George tells Albert he needs to get used to the microphone because the days of merely looking regal and not falling off the horse are over.
Elizabeth (Helena Bonham Carter), Albert’s wife, finds a speech therapist to aid her husband’s impediment. Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush) is an Australian with some strange methods. First, he doesn’t call Albert “Your Majesty.” The family calls Albert “Bertie,” and that’s what Lionel calls him, too. Lionel also wants to delve into the family background, which Albert resists.
With those restrictions, Lionel attempts to work out the mechanics of the problem. He tells Albert to swear as a form of therapy, and in fact swearing doesn’t make Albert stammer as much. Lionel also tells him to sing what he is saying, for singing doesn’t lend itself to stammering (as Mel Tillis will tell you).
While all this is taking place, the royal family is being upended. George dies, which places Edward on the throne. Edward is determined to marry Wallis Simpson (Eve Best), the American divorcee. But the Archbishop (Derek Jacobi) declares that the head of the Church of England, which Edward will be as king, cannot be married to a divorcee.
Edward abdicates, and this puts Albert on the throne as George VI.
In the background, World War II is ramping up. Now is the time for a leader and a king to be strong, to speak to the whole empire and confidently tell it that the empire will endure. Can the new king put aside his fears and deliver a speech that will comfort his people?
“The King’s Speech” is a special movie. It is not merely a costume drama about the royals and their backbiting ways. This is a movie for anyone who struggles with an issue and needs courage to face it.
Colin Firth is magnificent as Albert. His line delivery as a stammering person is flawless. More so, he embodies one thrust into the limelight without any desire for it. We see his agony as one who must make speeches – but cannot. Then we see him walk into the spotlight as king.
There’s also a tenderness that shows through in how he relates to his wife, Elizabeth (who tries hard to aid her husband), and his daughters (one of whom is now the Queen of England).
Geoffrey Rush is equally wonderful as the therapist who believes that befriending Albert is the first step in helping him. He doggedly resists Albert’s demand to recognize his royalty. Instead, he forges a friendship that allows Albert to face his fears and do what needs to be done.
I saw “The King’s Speech” after the new year, but this would have been one of my top 10 movies of 2010. It’s one that should be seen by anyone with doubts and fears who needs courage to endure.
Mike Parnell is pastor of Beth Car Baptist Church in Halifax, Va.
MPAA Rating: R for some language. Reviewer’s note: The R may not be warranted. Yes, it has the f-word, but only as a word to aid Albert in his therapy.
Director: Tom Hooper
Writer: David Seidler
Cast: Colin Firth: Albert/George VI; Helena Bonham Carter: Elizabeth; Geoffrey Rush: Lionel Logue; Guy Pearce: Edward; Michael Gambon: George V; Derek Jacobi: Archbishop.
The movie’s website is here.
Michael Parnell is pastor of Temple Baptist Church in Raleigh, North Carolina. He is married and has two boys. His love is for movies, and he can be found in a theater most Fridays.