The King’s Speech
The treatment for this film must have come across as a frighteningly British proposal. What other country could possibly propose making a major international film about the dual issues of the monarchy and a speech impediment? But make it they did and director Tom Hooper deserves all the credit that he’s receiving for pushing through that vision of the film and not succumbing to the attractive lure of 1930’s period politics. From the first frame, right up until the last supertitle, this film is about the relationship between two men.
I have stated a number of times that I thought the Oscar for Best Actor, last year, should have gone to Colin Firth for his stunningly restrained turn as a grief stricken professor in Tom Ford’s superb A Single Man. I now have strong hopes that this injustice will be rectified come February 27th. He, along with Geoffery Rush who will surely be the front runner for Supporting Actor, give a master class in acting for biopics. All the accusations levelled against Jamie Foxx and Philip Seymour Hoffman could never be used here- the film is a window into the lives of two private men whose lives didn’t give the actors the comfort of distinctive character traits, ticks or anomalies. That may be a strange thing to suggest when the entire film revolves around a stammer but it is to Firth’s credit that the impediment seems totally naturally and within minutes becomes almost unnoticeable (save for the almost constant references to it, obviously).
Around these two the rest of the cast revolve like slightly absent satellites. I have always doubted whether Helena Bonham Carter can play a truly sympathetic character, but perhaps that makes her well suited to the role of the Queen Mother. Guy Pearce is an equally enigmatic proposition but his performance, as the abdicating King Edward VIII, is quietly moving and genuinely excellent. Timothy Spall plays Winston Churchill for the second time in a year (after Jackboots on Whitehall) and seems ready to inhabit that character in a feature of his own, perhaps seeing this as a test run for the character.
The icing on the cake comes in the form of the presentation. Endlessly classy and sophisticated it can be resoundingly said that no one does an upper class period drama quite like the British. Perhaps this film can be shown to Jeremy Hunt in order to prove what a vital role the UK Film Council has been playing. For all its detractors the agency has managed to get off the ground a film that will surely go down as one of the finest British films in years, and will be hot favourite to take home the top prize at the Academy Awards. It seems a shame that with its destruction productions like The King’s Speech might either never get made or leave our shores for good.
Scintillating and uplifting in equal measure, who would’ve thought that speech therapy could be so much fun? A triumph for everyone involved and without doubt one of the best films this year.