King's Speech (2010)

Review by Boniface

Though I missed The King's Speech when it was in theaters, I had heard so many wonderful things about it from every quarter that I was eager to rent it as soon as it came to DVD. I was not disappointed. The King's Speech (rated R, starring Colin Firth, Helena Bonham-Carter and Geoffrey Rush) is one of those rare films in which the opinion of the main stream critics and my own opinion come together.

The plot is based on the true story of the attempts of the reclusive King George VI (r. 1936-1952) to overcome a severe speech impediment as he prepares to step into the spotlight in order to lead Great Britain on the eve of World War II. After having tried and failed many times to overcome his stammering, the King is persuaded to try the unorthodox methods of Lionel Logue, an Australian speech therapist. The films traces the development of George from a bitter, frightened skeptic to a confident leader as, with Logue's help, he gradually learns to overcome his stammering - and find a true friend in his simple therapist.

One of the nice things about this film is that there is no "bad guy." In a culture too accustomed to films about protagonist vs. antagonist, it was nice to see a film where there is no antagonist; or rather, where the antagonist and the protagonist is the same person. In George's up and down attempts to overcome his stammering, we see a wonderful analogy of human nature in general. Just as Logue helps George discover that his stammering is a not physical but the result of deep psychological problems dating back to the king's troubled childhood, and that they can consequently be overcome, so we are reminded that our problem (sin) is something that comes from within us, often from deep-seated habit, and just as surely as George can overcome stammering with Logue's guidance, so can we overcome our evil inclinations with the help of grace. George the stammerer and George the King are the same person, just as every saint is a converted sinner. This very positive message is at the heart of the film.

There is one objectionable scene in which Logue commands George to cuss (the F-word) because he notices that the King does not stammer when he is cussing. I think this scene is regrettable, because it is the only thing morally problematic in the entire film. But then again, it depends upon context - you might not be that put out by it if the context in which a cuss word occurs is important to you. Here there is no real context other than saying the word itself. It is not used as an expletive or sexual phrase; the therapist merely says, "Start saying bad words", and George complies. It is cussing in isolation, and thought it is definitely unfortunate, it might not be offensive to you. This should not stop you from watching the movie, however, if for no other reason than it is very easy to tell when this part is coming up. Logue says, "You don't stammer when you curse." When he says that, just fast forward for about thirty seconds and you're good to go.

Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush are excellent; Bonham-Carter is alright, though I am too used to her in bizarre Tim Burton films to believe her as the Queen of England, but that is my prejudice, not anything to do with her acting. This movie was a genuinely pleasant experience: a decent film about decent people just trying to overcome human nature. Ultimately, this is the struggle of every one of us.

I would easily give this film three tiaras if it were not for the cussing scene. As it stands, I have to give it two and a half, since the unfortunate appearance of the F-bomb is the one stain on this otherwise excellent film.