movie film review | chris tookey

King's Speech

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  King's Speech Review
Tookey's Rating
10 /10
Average Rating
9.39 /10
Colin Firth , Geoffrey Rush , Helena Bonham Carter
Full Cast >

Directed by: Tom Hooper )
Written by: David Seidler

Released: 2010
Genre: DRAMA
Origin: UK
Length: 118

A right royal success.
Reviewed by Chris Tookey

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The rumours are true. The superlatives are justified. Colin Firth (pictured left) really does give the performance of his life as the Queen’s father, George VI.

But his is not the only stellar achievement in a wonderful British film that’s certain to challenge America’s finest at this year’s Oscars.

The story of how the shy, sensitive, unambitious Albert, Duke of York rose above a crippling speech impediment to become King and a focal point of opposition to Hitler is so fascinating that you may end up wondering why on earth it has not been told before in the cinema.

Wisely, screenwriter David Seidler has chosen to centre the narrative on the unlikely friendship between the stuffy, frustrated Albert — or Bertie as he was known to his family — and the laid-back but autocratic Australian speech therapist Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush), whose less than deferential methods might have been calculated to make any royal’s hackles rise.

‘My castle, my rules,’ Logue loftily informs the future king, at the start of their long and far from untroubled relationship.

The sensationally well-played scenes between these two fine actors would be enough on their own to make the film a delight, but they are assisted by a supporting cast that must be among the best in the history of cinema.

Proving once again that in the right role she is an actress of genius, Helena Bonham Carter is certain of at least an Oscar nomination as the late Queen Mother, Bertie’s loving, supportive and, when she needs to be, formidable wife.

She reluctantly takes on the mantle of monarchy when she would much prefer to have been just a wife and mother, and scarcely bothers to conceal her contempt for Wallis Simpson (played with a commendable lack of warmth by Eve Best) and Edward VIII, masterfully acted by Guy Pearce as weak, selfish and petulant.

Important cameos are supplied by Michael Gambon as Bertie’s ferocious father George V, Timothy Spall as a sympathetic Winston Churchill and Derek Jacobi as a spikily officious Archbishop of Canterbury.

As Logue’s wife, Jennifer Ehle (who last played opposite Firth in the BBC’s Pride And Prejudice, and deserves to be on the big screen more often than she is) is terrific in a scene where she finds herself unexpectedly playing hostess to an unannounced home visit from the King and Queen.

As in his previous film about Brian Clough, The Damned United, director Tom Hooper trusts his actors to do much of the work, but he knows where to place his camera, when to move it, and when to keep still.

Danny Cohen’s cinemato graphy is also quietly impressive, whether he is giving us grand occasions or intimate moments.

One of the most commendable aspects of the piece is that it doesn’t over-dramatise. There is no miracle cure for Bertie’s stammer.

The friendship between the future King and his therapist never becomes sentimental. The story is all the more charming, moving and realistic for its restraint.

But this is, above all, the film for which Colin Firth will be remembered. It’s no stretch for him to play a cold, stuffy Englishman, but he’s wonderfully complex as this reluctant monarch: tetchy, insecure, dutiful but resentful of duty at the same time.

It’s a technical tour de force, and tremendously raw and touching in its vulnerability.

Firth gave a sensational, low-key performance last year in A Single Man, but that film was never likely to be popular enough to win him more than a nomination as Best Actor at the Oscars. This one certainly is.

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