The King’s Speech does not simply depict the life of a king, but rather chronicles the making of one. Prince Albert (Colin Firth), the Duke of York, is second in line to the throne, but is inhibited from performing his public duties by an uncontrollable stammer, to the disappointment of his ailing father. Exasperated, Bertie consults speech therapist Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush), whose unconventional methods have earned him a recommendation to the Duchess Elizabeth (Helena Bonham Carter). Amid professional incompatibilities and personal grievances, the two men forge a lifelong relationship that survives Bertie’s ascension to the throne and the onset of World War II.
Director Tom Hooper deserves praise for selecting an interesting bit of history and successfully turning it into a poignant portrait of an uncharacteristic friendship. The film also owes much to its main cast for its smooth execution. All three deserved the numerous accolades they received. Bonham Carter perfectly captures the role of charming wife, and Rush delivers just the right amount of impertinence as Logue. “My castle, my rules,” he tells the Duke during their first meeting. Firth, of course, shines as King George VI. He embodies his character’s stammers and frustrations so well that it becomes impossible not to sympathize. “If I’m King, where’s my power? Can I form a government? Can I levy a tax, declare a war? No! And yet I am the seat of all authority. Why? Because the nation believes that when I speak, I speak for them. But I can’t speak.”
A king struggling with a speech disability provides rich story material for any medium. Hooper knows this, and therefore mines it expertly. With its witty script, winning cast, and beautiful cinematography, The King’s Speech scores a win with almost every critic out there—most notably the judges of the 2010 Oscars. So it comes as a surprise that I am not as wowed by it. Yes, there is the issue of the movie’s “historical hiccups” but that’s not even what bothers me. Ostensibly, there is nothing wrong with the film, but my reaction to its Oscars success remains, “Was there nothing else?” The King’s Speech is well-crafted, yes, perfect, yes. It succeeds in what it aims to do. But it doesn’t offer anything else: no challenges or new truths. Essentially, its triumph relies on a tried and tested formula that, for me, just doesn’t deserve a Best Picture award.
‘Sometimes, when I ride through the streets and see, you know, the common man staring at me, I’m struck by how little I know of his life, and how little he knows of mine.’
‘Papa, what’s he saying?’ ‘I don’t know but he seems to be saying it rather well.’