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The King’s Speech (2010)

"Before viewing" talks don't have spoilers, but since there's no "After viewing" talk for this one, comments may have spoilers. More»» by Randy Heffner

Is the film worth your time?

The pace and energy of The King’s Speech is driven by characters and their relationships, not by events and action. On the surface, the film is about a powerful man overcoming a personal weakness, but what’s more important to the heart of the film is its exploration of the relationships around him and how they factor into his speech impediment.

Certainly it takes personal determination to deal with a personal weakness like a speech impediment, but The King’s Speech raises deeper questions by considering relational and emotional issues that may, in part, cause some types of speech impediments. This turns the film’s center toward our sensitivity (or not) to other people’s weaknesses. Mixed with themes of royalty and the commoner, the film asks: What are the best ways to love and support a person dealing with a weakness? When should we pressure them to get better versus accepting them as they are? How do we know whether someone is or isn’t really trying to overcome a weakness? How easily do we find fun in ridiculing others? Beyond these, there are more subtle and, in the end, far-ranging questions that The King’s Speech alludes to: When do we over simply our search for answers by looking for the easy fix? Do we over value formal training and credentials and treatments that miss the heart of a weakness? Do we place too much faith in science and reasoning over and against the complexity and richness of the human heart?

From a filmcraft point of view, The King’s Speech is told in a straightforward way, with acting as its greatest strength and a strong story as well. Colin Firth delivers a stellar performance; his stammering is painful to watch, but his melancholy eyes make the better part of his screen presence. As the speech therapist, Geoffrey Rush is engaging and entertaining, as is Helena Bonham Carter as the king’s wife. Even at two hours, the film’s length does not allow it to stray far from the main storyline, but the side stories bring in important character dynamics. The film could have usefully employed another 15 minutes or more without seeming long.

All that said, The King’s Speech is very well worth the time. However, viewers that are susceptible to imitating what they see may want to avoid the film’s strong cursing. Even though it is an important, appropriate, and relatively small part of the film, it’s intensity may stick with some people.

Since he was a boy, Prince Albert has been mistreated, ridiculed, and misunderstood because of his stammering speech impediment. His father, King George V, thinks highly of him except for his stammer. The King pressures him to just get over it by concentrating on each word and just spitting it out. Only his wife is fully supportive, yet her support alone can’t overcome the tide against him. After a series of failed speech therapists, Albert says no more. His wife persists, introducing him to one last therapist. Running time: 118 min.

The film has several sequences of intense strong language, but these are an integral part of the film’s portrayal of the emotional versus physical aspects of some speech impediments.

  • Director: Tom Hooper
  • Screenplay: David Seidler
  • Leads: Colin Firth, Helena Bonham Carter, Geoffrey Rush, Guy Pearce
  • Cinematography: Danny Cohen
  • Music: Alexandre Desplat

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