To the hardened cynic, The King’s Speech is a film that has been created with the awards season in mind. Certainly with Colin Firth’s performance it is an almost foregone conclusion that he will find himself at least nominated, if not winning at the Oscars.
Yet The King’s Speech is heartfelt and earnest enough to sweep aside any cynicism, helped largely in part by the sublime cast. Colin Firth plays Albert, Duke of York and the future King George VI, who blighted with a stammer since an early age struggles under his bullish father and brother. His wife Elizabeth (Helena Bonham Carter) approaches the Australian Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush) in a last bid to cure her husband’s difficulty with speech.
Explaining to Logue that her husband is required to speak publically, Logue instructs Albert to meet with him for a session every day. Initially Albert is reluctant to meet with Logue, disliking his controversial methods and Logue’s refusal to partake in formality with Logue calling Albert ‘Bertie’. Yet Albert finds himself compelled to meet with Logue after another particularly humiliating episode with his father.
As those acquainted with the historical circumstances will know, Albert found himself compelled to ascend to the throne after his brother Edward VIII abdicated due to his relationship with the American divorcee Wallis Simpson. It becomes more important than ever for Albert to overcome his difficulties stammering.
The King’s Speech is certainly a beautiful film to look at, incredibly well-shot; each frame is resplendent, evoking the era wonderfully. The acting too, is perfect. Colin Firth transforms himself, and if last year’s A Single Man was not enough to banish his incarnation as Mr Darcy, his Albert certainly should be. Geoffrey Rush too, is pitch-perfect, his performance in the film’s climatic moments are especially touching.
Despite all this, The King’s Speech is neither particularly memorable nor engaging. Whilst Albert’s plight is certainly affecting, the film is inadequately paced, feeling over-long. In not building tension sufficiently, the film’s poignant final scene hardly contains the emotional pay-off it should. For those not particularly well-disposed to the royal family, Albert’s suffering may be difficult to empathise with. The film itself may not be remembered for long, but the performances of its lead performances certainly will be. Firth alone is surely worth the price of admission.