The King’s Speech focuses on Prince Albert (Colin Firth), whose role as a public speaker and potential king is undermined by his stutter. Albert’s wife Elizabeth (Helena Bonham Carter) hires irreverent speech therapist and failed Australian actor Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush) as a last-ditch effort to cure the mumbling monarch, before he is put on the throne following the death of King George V and the abdication of King Edward VIII.
The King’s Speech is a movie of contrasts—the contrast between Logue and Albert, between the public and personal lives of the characters, between the desires and realities of their situations. Colin Firth again displays his tremendous talent for acting by highlighting the effect of Albert’s stutter on his public and private life—the opening scene in which he attempts to address the audience at the British Empire Exhibition is heart-wrenching, as is the scene in which he stutters his way through a bedtime story for his children.
Michael Gambon steals the spotlight as George V, developing from a traditionalist king into a bedridden, powerless old man at death’s door. Meanwhile, Geoffrey Rush is brilliant as Logue, whose relationship with Albert grows from a troubled start into a close, intense friendship.
The film’s cinematography is extremely well thought-out, with director Tom Hooper giving the film a very restrictive feel. Even the (few) outdoor scenes take place in cloistered environments, such as crowds or thick fog, giving a constant sense of the pressure Albert feels from the world around him.
The film ruthlessly pries into the private lives of every character, cutting straight to their emotional mindsets. As a result, one becomes fully engaged with every character’s motives, achievements and heartbreaks. If nothing else, by its end, The King’s Speech will make you want to give poor Colin Firth a hug.
Of course, Hooper has taken some liberties with historical accuracy. The dramatic finale in which Albert finally overcomes his stutter and delivers a perfect speech on live radio in 1939 would have been somewhat diminished if the movie had acknowledged that, in the words of the real Lionel Logue, “resonantly and without stuttering, he opened the Australian Parliament in Canberra in 1927.” Thankfully, though, this artistic license works in favour of successfully telling an emotionally engaging, moving story.