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Review: The King's Speech


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Regardless of your stance on the monarchy, it’s difficult to watch The King’s Speech without a swelling sense of pride for the bygone head of state, George VI. Sure, the new film by Tom Hooper glosses over some of the finer political details which would let republicans squirm with revulsion (namely, the Royals’ appeasement of Hitler in the late 1930s), but the tale of the unlikely King battling his speech impediment whilst taking his place on the throne is a moving account of personal courage and a dead-set rigid upper lip.

The King's SpeechColin Firth—still wooing the ladies in middle age with his stoic, rumpled charm—plays Bertie (his family nickname), the second son of George V hampered by stammering since childhood, who receives speech therapy in the event that he’ll take the helm of the British Empire as the salacious hands of his brother Edward brings on the impending abdication crisis. Trying to break Bertie from his taut mannerisms and the hindering disciplines of his precise upbringing is the unruly and facetious Australian therapist Lionel, expertly portrayed by the irreverent Geoffrey Rush.

So begins a regal bromance that sees Bertie first greet Lionel with disdain, then steely reservations, and finally an intimate openness as he realises that the unorthodox therapist can help him master his stalling jaw. Just as their tempestuous relationship is put to the test as things fall apart in both the cabinet and the Royal family, wry and astute wife Elizabeth (brilliantly played by Helen Bonham Carter) offers Bertie a constant source of fortitude with unerring support for her flawed Prince.

For the most part, The King’s Speech is an engrossing and a meticulous recreation of that fraught historical era. To address a few faults: the sharp script is a little too reliant on smug jokes, there is an intolerably lumpy Churchill causing a distraction in each of his scenes, and although the drama is gripping enough throughout, things do feel musty during slower passages.

Although the events emphasised in The King’s Speech are often overlooked during a period where Europe was shredded for a second time, Firth’s impeccable delivery of a man facing down utmost humiliation to fulfil his duty shows George VI’s servitude to be a compelling story in its own right. After all, battling a faltering voice to talk the Commonwealth through a world war must take some balls.

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