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The King’s Speech

Year: 2010
Production Co: See Saw Films
Director: Tom Hooper
Writer: David Seidler
Cast: Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush. Helena Bonham Carter, Guy Pearce, Derek Jacobi, Jennifer Ehle, Michael Gambon, Timothy Spall, Anthony Andrews

In one way this movie seems to be the ultimate indulgence of upper class society's First World problems. Without being swept up in the drama, it seems a little bit absurd that when his actions were going to be doing their part in sending countless others to their deaths, we should sympathise with the King of England being nervous about giving a speech because he stutters. I'll bet the millions of soldiers and civilians facing death wished all they had to do was give a speech in a snug, climate-controlled broadcasting booth before going back to a life of privilege and plenty.

That we end up caring so much about Bertie's (Colin Firth) plight, and the bond he forms with speech pathologist Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush), is testament to Tom Hooper's skill as a director. When Albert gives the titular speech declaring England's intent to go to war with Germany and the melancholy, weighted strings of Beethoven's Symphony Number 7 swell in the background we feel as tense, hopeful and gripped as we would watching a soldier risking his life going into battle.

After George V dies and Albert's brother Edward abdicates to marry Wallis Simspon, he finds himself on the throne of the British Empire, a notion that horrifies him because of the crippling stutter that's always plagued him and which he doesn't want to share with the world – even though as King he'll become the public voice of the monarchy with the spread of radio.

In desperation he agrees to a session with the unconvential Australian speech therapist, but partly because of his belief that it's useless and partly the upstart commoner's insistence that he treat the monarch like any other patient, Albert resists angrily.

But it's in his anger that Lionel reveals Albert speaks quite normally (it also leads in a roundabout way to his repeating 'fuck fuck fuck fuck' which led to a minor scandal with the MPAA rating at the time), and it puts the pair on the road to an odd friendship and Bertie rising to the occasion.

It looks every bit like 1930s London but you'll hardly notice the spot-on period detail as Firth and Rush dodge and joust like De Niro and Pacino did in their heydays.

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