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Movie Review: The King’s Speech (2010)

“Because the nation believes when I speak, I speak for them,” the king told Logue. “Yet I cannot speak!”

“The King’s Speech,” written by David Seidler and directed by Tom Hooper, tells the story of Britain’s King George VI’s (Colin Firth) struggle to lose his stutter and become confident enough to speak to the public like the leader that he is.

The plot line sounds relatively simple: a future leader grows up with a stuttering problem, and loses faith in himself as a leader. He then gets help to overcome his stutter, assumes the throne and everybody lives happily ever after.

But “The King’s Speech” is anything but simple.

Though it is true that this plot line is accurate, the film is extraordinarily emotionally complex and intricate. And though the plot line may be as predictable as that of a romantic comedy, the film is not a mere replica of any other film that tells a story of triumph. It is a drama in every sense of the word, but in a way that we have not really experienced before.

The film is weighty, but also paradoxically light and uplifting.

When Firth’s character is introduced to Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush), a speech therapist invested in helping him get rid of his stutter, the magic begins. Logue insists on addressing the future king as “Bertie,” a nickname that makes him uncomfortable at first. George’s tendency towards formality causes him to ask Logue to refer to him by his full name, but Logue does not comply.

Bertie seems to have lost himself in the formality of it all, after having grown so used to it that he forgets that he is a human being just like any other. Logue brings this out of him by choosing to address him using the name that his family uses and pushing him to talk about personal matters.

Oddly enough, the predictability of the plot line serves only to make it more powerful, as the audience waits in anticipation to see whether or not the film is as “feel-good” as its cookie-cutter form appears to be.

The sequences during which Logue works with Bertie to improve not only his speech but his level of confidence are both intense and joyful, as Logue pushes Bertie, and Bertie eventually realizes that Logue’s pushing comes only from good intentions.

The film is inspirational in the highest sense of the word; Firth has created a character so emotionally complex and three-dimensional that the audience cannot help but believe in him and want him to succeed. The relationship between Bertie and Logue is absolutely adorable, as the two develop a sort of banter that benefits them both. Logue brings out the real Bertie that exists underneath King George VI’s hard exterior.

Logue forces passion, emotion and expression out of the previously cold and uncomfortable Bertie. The dedication of Rush and Firth to their roles is what truly gives the film its impact; Firth is fearless in portraying Bertie as he believes him to be.

Helena Bonham Carter, who takes on the role of the king’s wife, Queen Elizabeth, is yet another asset to the film, as she plays the part with the perfect balance of poise and humility. As Bertie is practicing breathing exercises with Logue, for example, his wife helps by sitting on his chest as a part of the exercise. When she realizes the exercise is fun, her usual proper demeanor gives way to a playful, softer one.

“This is actually quite good fun, Bertie,” Elizabeth quips.

There are many films that depict the idea that sometimes, everybody needs someone to fall back on and lean on, but this theme is usually used in a romantic context. “The King’s Speech,” however, is not romantically driven. While the film has its own romantic element through Elizabeth and George, the true focus is refreshingly shifted toward the relationship between Bertie and Logue.

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