Welcome to this blog of my film reviews. Some have been drafted carefully on paper, others I have sat and typed. I'm going to make it clear right now that I don't expect you to agree with my (re)views, or to like my style of writing. However, I want my views to be just out there and open, as a person who wishes to express himself from deep within. Feel free to comment and debate with me, but I do ask that you are civil and not harsh, as any comments which are basically swear words and insults will automatically be deleted. Also any text that is in orange (and often bold) is a Hyperlink to either a source, or a previous post for background reference.

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

The King's Speech


The film tells the true story of Prince Albert, or "Bertie" (Colin Firth), second son of King George V (Michael Gambon), who struggles in the Royal duty of public speaking due to a stutter, so visits speech therapist Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush), who helps him break through the boundaries his stutter causes. However, after his father dies and his older brother Edward (Guy Pearce) abdicates the throne, Bertie is crowned King George VI, and with war against Germany set to begin any day now, the King's nerves may put him back at square one, just when he has to make the most important speech of his life.

The film has a number of very powerful elements, four of which I shall write about within this review.

Firstly, is the fantastic cast. Together the work perfectly in sync to create a powerful ensemble. Colin Firth gives the best performance of his career as Bertie, truly creating a character we feel for. His turmoil, embarrasment and hate for the stutter are created with such heartfelt emotion, and one could even forget he is an actor portraying a stutterer, as he neither milks it nor understates it, Firth really captures it spot on. Working together perfectly with Firth to create an incredible on screen bond/friendship is Geoffrey Rush, who makes Lionel a strong, determined soul, somebody unafraid to wind up and offend to get through the barriers that Bertie's stutter creates, which results in some great comic relief/banter from the two character's bond. It is this down to Earth, rather realistic stance which made Bertie and Lionel's bond so powerful and Lionel's work so successful both on and off screen. The other really memorable performance is Helena Bonham Carter as Bertie's wife Elizabeth - better known to my generation as The Queen Mother, who died March 2002. Bonham Carter gives a very sympathetic performance, making Elizabeth's worry and despair over being unable to help Bertie very heartfelt and packed full of emotion.

Secondly, is the set and costume designs, which are absolutely stunning. The homes owned by the various Royals are all grand in design - chandeliers, beautifully carved walls and ceilings, long red carpets - making them almost as beautiful and majestic to look at/watch as the Royals themselves. In terms of the exterior sets, not a vast amount of '30s London is shown, but what is seen is excellent in design. The old fashioned lamp posts, the cobbles, the (now) vintage cars, all come together so well to make '30s London feel very authentic and eye-catching - in terms of the authenticity I'm going by what I've seen in old black and white photographs. Likewise the costumes are all superb in design. The Royal uniform Bertie wears for his speech at the end of the film is bold and grand in design, and cries out power and authority. The suits and dresses worn by both characters and extras are all very accurate of the period, especially the suit worn by Winston Churchill (Timothy Spall), which is an almost exact replica of the ones he wore for all of the photographs. Clearly the costume department for this film went all out in getting it just right.

Thirdly, allow me to write about the screenplay. The screenplay offers us a very emotional journey, very personal to the real life Bertie, displaying self doubt, self hate, a sometimes short temper, but also love for his family and respect for Lionel and his work. It even delves into the behind closed doors relationships Bertie had with his daughters (Freya Wilson, Ramona Marquez), his father, his mother (Claire Bloom) and his brother. The emotional journey is very powerful and heart gripping, and so well written that you will find yourself completely moved and engrossed by it; while the side of the screenplay showing Bertie's family relationships makes us take into account that behind the palace walls and armed guards is an every day family who love each other, and also bicker and have heated emotions when they struggle to see eye to eye. In the relationship between Bertie and his daughters we see a loving father, uncaring about looking foolish if it means he and his children enjoy some time together.
A scene of genuine poignancy is created when King George V passes away, and the grief washes over Edward and Bertie, with the grief displayed and the tenseness of the scene around George's death bed hitting hard and making this a truly moving and poignant scene.
Although, the screenplay is a powerful and very serious one, it does offer some very welcome comic relief as well. The most memorable moment of comic relief comes during one of Bertie's sessions with Lionel, where Lionel pursuades him to forget his dignified manner and swear, which shows Bertie unleash a rant of swear words. This is such a wonderful moment of comic relief due to the fact that it is such a surprise to think of Royalty swearing so; as well as the fact Firth times Bertie's initial reluctance, and his stammering of the profanities perfectly, and really makes this wonderful moment of comic relief his.

Fourth and finally, is the film's triumphant ending. The film all builds up to a recreation of Bertie/King George VI's first War Time Speech, September 1939, announcing the start of World War II. Word for word, this is truly the most powerful, triumphant moment of the film. Firth packs so much heartfelt emotion into every single word of the speech, making it very deep and moving to watch. Combine this with the various shots of the listeners - regular cuts from Bertie's various family members and the Government, to thousands outside Buckingham Palace, to the working class sitting in the pub mulling over Bertie's words over a pint - and not only is it powerful and triumphant, but also a true representation of a nation come together by something as awful as war.

Outstanding design, a phenomenally powerful screenplay with a triumphant finale, and a fantastic cast lead by spectacular performances from Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush and Helena Bonham Carter, make this not just a superb film, but a piece of art.

Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush, Helena Bonham Carter, Guy Pearce, Timothy Spall, Michal Gambon, Claire Bloom, Eve Best, Jennifer Ehle, Freya Wilson, Ramona Marquez, Derek Jacobi, Anthony Andrews.

Oscars: Best Picture (Iain Canning, Emile Sherman, Gareth Unwin), Best Director (Tom Hooper), Best Actor (Colin Firth), Best Screenplay (David Seidler).
Oscar nominations: Best Supporting Actor (Geoffrey Rush), Best Supporting Actress (Helena Bonham Carter), Best Art Direction (Eve Stewart, Judy Farr), Best Editing (Tariq Anwar), Best Cinematography (Danny Cohen), Best Sound Mixing (Paul Hamblin, Martin Jensen, John Midgley), Best Costume Design (Jenny Beavan), Best Original Score (Alexandre Desplat).

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