The King’s Speech documents touching journey
In the 68th Annual Golden Globe Awards, The King’s Speech emerged quite successfully, garnering seven nominations and winning the Best Actor award for Colin Firth’s performance as the main character, Prince Albert. The film opens in England in 1925 as Albert speaks at the Empire Exhibition at Wembley Stadium with great difficulty. Albert, fondly known to his family as “Bertie,” is the Duke of York and the second son of King George V. His royal birth — and later, the abdication of his elder brother and his resulting coronation as King George VI — necessitates that he often speak publicly. Unfortunately, Bertie suffers from a stammer.
This is the basic premise of the story. Nearly everyone closely associated with Bertie tries to help him overcome his speech impediment by bringing numerous physicians, therapists, and speech specialists to see him. In a particularly funny scene reminiscent of Henry Higgins and Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady, a famous doctor hired by Bertie’s wife Elizabeth (Helena Bonham Carter) tries to treat the prince by asking him to read with several marbles in his mouth. This episode, during which Bertie nearly chokes, causes him to abandon the entire process, and he stops searching for treatments.
Elizabeth, however, remains determined, and contacts Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush), an Australian speech therapist known for his “unorthodox and controversial” methods of speech treatment. Logue — who insists upon calling the prince “Bertie” to maintain equality within the patient setting — is a failed actor and is not certified to rectify speech impediments. His therapy comes from his experience with shell-shocked soldiers. Nevertheless, he applies his knowledge to Bertie’s situation, using several different techniques that seriously ruffle Bertie’s equanimity. These include making Bertie recite nursery rhymes, swear volubly, and put words to music — Logue even trawls through Bertie’s childhood to reach the psychological roots of his stammer.
All this, however, comes to a climax when England declares war on Germany and Bertie, as king, must deliver the first wartime address. Terrified of failing his country because of his inability to speak fluently, he frequently doubts himself. “The nation believes that when I speak, I speak for them,” he tells Logue, “...but I can’t speak!” And yet he can. The scene where Bertie discovers that he has a right to be heard, that he “[has] a voice” is the climax of the story and perhaps the most touching moment of the film. Bertie’s self-discovery and self-actualization stand as a testament to the bravery of one man and an inspiration to audiences worldwide.
Less a film about the lives of royalty than a story of one man’s personal courage, The King’s Speech seeks to present the royal family, especially the king, as humans capable of the same fears and the same strengths as the common people. On one level, this movie is about letting King George VI become “Bertie” to the audience just as he finally allows himself to be “Bertie” with Logue. We see him at his best and his worst, from his breakdown after his brother David’s abdication, to his devotion to his wife and his daughters and his unswerving sense of loyalty and duty to his country. Indeed, the sacrifice he makes becomes painfully clear when he tells Logue, “If we were equals, I’d be at home with my wife and no one would give a damn.” Ultimately, The King’s Speech is a movie where fine acting is the heart of the film. Its humor, pathos, and confidence are sure to carry it high as the Academy Awards approach.