The King’s Speech (2010)

CLICK HERE to read my new post ‘Oscar Winners 2011’

Update Feb. 27, 2011: The King’s Speech just won 4 OSCARS: Best Picture, Best Director Tom Hooper, Best Actor Colin Firth, Best Original Screenplay David Seidler.

Update Feb. 13, 2011: The King’s Speech just won 7 BAFTA’s: Best Film, British Film of the Year, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor & Actress, Best Original Screenplay, Best Music.

Update Jan. 30, 2011: The King’s Speech just won the Best Cast in a motion picture and Colin Firth Best Actor at the Screen Actors Guild Awards tonight.

Update Jan. 30, 2011: Tom Hooper just won the Directors Guild Award.

Update Jan. 17, 2011: Colin Firth just won the Best Actor Golden Globe last night. To read his acceptance speech, click here.

Colin Firth must be feeling the pressure now.  I don’t mean the likely Oscar contention.  I mean, how is he going to surpass himself in his next film?  That’s the trouble with having reached your career best, so far.

But that is not going to be an issue at this point, because it is in celebratory mode right now, yes, even before the Oscars.

The King’s Speech first premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in September, 2010, and won the audience award.  Since then, it has seen more and more accolades.  At present, the film has been nominated for seven Golden Globes and four SAG Awards on this side of the Atlantic.  Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush, Helena Bonham Carter have all won their acting categories at the British Independent Film Awards in December, with David Seidler seizing Best Screenplay, and the movie garnered the Best British Independent Film Award.

A moving real life story about the struggle of King George VI (Colin Firth) to overcome a life-long stammer, as he was reluctantly crowned king after his older brother King Edward VIII (Guy Pearce) abdicated the throne in 1936 for love of an American divorcee.  Bertie, as his family called him, was fortunate to have a devoted and loving wife (Helena Bonham Carter), who found him an unconventional speech therapist from Australia, Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush).  The film builds on the development of their friendship leading to the exhilarating climax at the end, when the King gives his first war-time speech to his nation, rousing up their support against Germany.

It all began with screenwriter David Seidler being evacuated out of Britain to America upon an imminent Nazi attack at the brink of WWII.  To the then three-year-old Seidler, the treacherous trans Atlantic ordeal was so devastating that in his subsequent childhood years after arriving America, he had to struggle with a debilitating stammer.  During the war years, he had listened on the radio to the speeches by King George VI, whom he learned was a fellow stutterer.  With the King as a model, Seidler was motivated to overcome his own stammer.

The idea of telling the true story of his personal hero remained with Steidler for decades. He had been doing research on the King and found the son of his speech therapist Lionel Logue, Valentine, who had preserved his father’s notes.  As a loyal ex-subject, Steidler wrote the Queen Mother requesting her approval to use her late husband’s story for a movie.  The following was the reply from Clarence House, the official residence of the Prince of Wales:

“Dear Mr. Seidler, thank you very much for your letter, but, please, not during my lifetime.  The memory of those events is still too painful”

The Queen Mother passed away in 2002, at the age of 101.  Seidler could now publicly work on a story that had captivated him all his life.  But the Royal Family needs not worry.  The screenplay that Seidler has written, and the film that ultimately comes out from director Tom Hooper is every bit dignified, respectful and artistically executed.  What more, the very human suffering and the exhilaration of overcoming an impediment are movingly told.  Overall, the film is a poignant portrayal of a courageous man, a beautiful friendship, and a loving family.

Colin Firth has presented to us a reluctant hero, won us over from the start with his vulnerability and insignificance, and kept us on his side with his perseverance and loyalty.  As the Queen Mother had put it, it is painful to watch him struggle to be heard.  The walk to the microphone, then an advancement in technology, is as grim as the dead man walking to his execution. No wonder there is the Brahms’ Requiem.

In an interview, Seidler mentions how Firth had asked him for specifics on the stuttering experience, and strived to live it in his performance. Powerful method acting indeed as Firth found himself so involved in the role that he had experienced tongue-tied episodes at public speaking.  Click here to listen to the in-depth interview with David Seidler at Stutter Talk. For a pre-Oscar interview with Seidler, Click Here to find the link to a BBC news clip.

Geoffrey Rush is the crucial partner in the bromance.  Without his devotion and humour, the relationship between therapist and client could not have risen to the level of trusting friendship necessary for effective treatment.  It is not a cure, but the breaking down of barriers, psychological and social.  Herein lies one important element of the film’s success, humour.  We are treated with lighthearted moments in the midst of struggles, unleashing the humanity to shine through.

As for the music. First off, I must say I’ve enjoyed the original music by Alexandre Desplat.  The timing and editing is particularly effective, an example is the rehearsal scene.  But the reverberations have been the selections of German music, in particular, Beethoven’s 7th second movement the Allegretto being used at the climatic King’s speech.  My view is that the war was against Nazism, the tyranny and atrocity committed by Hitler and his regime.  Considering Beethoven’s struggles with his own hearing loss, and his vision of freedom and brotherhood, he could well be a universal symbol of resistance and resilience, significant beyond national boundaries. And who can protest against the lofty and hauntingly moving Allegretto.  I’d say, good choice of music for the climax.  And after that, the mutual look between the two friends into each other’s eyes with the warm, soothing slow movement of the Emperor Concerto, what better way to end the movie.

What better way to start the new year.

~~~ 1/2 Ripples


To read my post Oscar Winners 2011 CLICK HERE

To read my post on the book The King’s Speech: How One Man Saved The British Monarchy by Mark Logue and Peter Conradi, CLICK HERE To “The King’s Speech: Fact and Fiction”

To listen to the historical archive of the actual speech by King George VI, click here.

For a review and critique of the music in The King’s Speech:

‘The Music of The King’s Speech’

Movie Music UK: Alexandre Desplat

Mary Kunz Goldman, music critic

To read a detailed Colin Firth Interview

To see a video clip of Colin Firth interviewed at TIFF

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If she’s not birding by the Pond, Arti’s likely watching a movie, reading, or writing a review. Creator of Ripple Effects, bylines in Asian American Press, Vague Visages, Curator Magazine.

15 thoughts on “The King’s Speech (2010)”

  1. Wonderful review, Arti! I so hope to see this film, as I think each of the major players (Firth, Rush, Bonham Carter) is a major talent. Thanks to you, I’ll be paying as much attention to the background music as to the story, something not done since Gary Oldman portrayed Beethoven in…(title escapes me, but it had “beloved” in it somewhere. Bother.) Yes, this is worth braving the multiplex–thank you!


    You must be thinking of Immortal Beloved. The music in The King’s Speech is beautiful and effective. I look forward to some major Oscar noms. Yes, they are all great talents, and I’m glad CF finally gets some recognition after so long in his career.



  2. Everyone I know who has seen this movie has recommended it. I hope to see it soon. Wonderful review!

    Ellen, I’m sure you’ll enjoy it!



  3. Lovely review Arti! – I loved this movie, thought Firth and Rush were brilliant, and though historically they had to mess around with the facts a bit, it works to create a moving picture of a man fighting his own demons to become a true and honest leader in a world run mad. I too was surprised at how funny the movie is – many wonderful heart-felt scenes showing their growing friendship.

    Thank you for the music commentary – and all the great links, esp the actual recording of George VI – you can see how perfectly Firth did this scene…


    Aren’t they a delightful pair? There are just too many talents in this film to acknowledge them all. CF and HBC have great chemistry too. At first I expected the film to be something along the line of a Merchant Ivory production, but after seeing the trailer I knew it would be different. It’s very clever to portray the two in such lighthearted manner. Regarding that speech, I think they did a good job in juxtaposing the actual KGVI’s with Colin’s voice, int. and ext. alternating. Captivating and affective.

    Thanks for stopping by and sharing your view. Have a Happy New Year!



  4. I don’t watch many movies, but I will definitely try to see this one. I love Colin Firth, not just because he is always so vulnerable onscreen, but because he is a magnificent actor. I saw him do a stutter quite brilliantly once before, in A Month in the Country. That was painful to watch then, and he has probably refined the technique now. Lovely review, Arti!


    Now that you mention it, yes, that’s one of the older movies CF did and which I can’t find anywhere…he and Kenneth Branagh, more than 20 years ago. These old films are hard to find. You’re right about CF being a magnificent actor. A favourite of mine is another obscure one, albeit more recent: ‘When Did You Last See Your Father?’ based on Blake Morrison’s memoir. I’m excited to see him getting some recognition after all these years.



  5. What a rich, evocative review, Arti. You’ve been educating me, too. I thought I remembered Colin Firth from Girl with a Pearl Earring, and there he was.

    I did have to look up the word “bromance”. This is the first time I’ve come across that one. And as these things happen, I just learned about Helena Bonham Carter in charlespaolino’s review of Sixty-Six, in which she starred.
    The name caught me because of its similarity to Helen Bonham, a cowgirl who was Miss Wyoming, and who was transformed by artist Debbie Little-Wilson into the patron saint of email. There’s no relationship, but the exploration was enough to embed Helena Bonham Carter in my mind.

    I just laughed at your joining of the microphone, the image of a “dead man walking” and the Brahms Requiem. As you know, I’ve made that walk a time or two, and overcoming the fear of public speaking is analogous to what the King experienced – although surely not as traumatic.

    I’m so looking forward to seeing this. Your initial recommendation was enough, but your wonderful review has, as they say, “sealed the deal”.

    A happy and productive New Year to you!


    Yes, I’m sure your experience in public speaking would make you instantly identify with CF here, albeit not the same nature or magnitude. 😉 And LOL, what a similarity but no, HBC is no cowgirl. She’s very versatile and talented. Actually the film is a wealth of British talents. I’m eager to know your thoughts after you’ve watched the movie.



  6. Just wrote a fulsome positive response which got lost in the ether … can’t bear being away from my own laptop and wireless service. Will try to repeat it when I return home in a couple of days.

    LOL whisperinggums… don’t worry about this cyber distraction. Enjoy your mountain retreat while you can. 😉



  7. Well, I’ll just clamber on along with all the rest of your admirers and add my unoriginal bit, which is to say that you write a superb review. I saw this film last week (Eau Claire Market) and absolutely loved it. Beautifully done, spendidly acted etc etc, but you have said these things and a whole lot more much better than I am doing.
    Very interesting to read of the story behind the making of the film, and it answered a question that had been circulating in my head – that of the potential reaction of the Royal Family.

    Just as a by-the-by, I was watching ‘Nell’ the other night, and was curious to know if that was the film in which Liam Neeson met Natasha Richardson (having just watched a few days before ‘Chloe’ during which I realized this was when he has lost her). I googled their names and clicked on the third response, which brought me to a blog that looked a bit familiar – yours! having only just discovered you days before, I was entertained by the coincidence.


    We could even have sat in the same theatre watching the same movie, but no, I went to Chinook… close enough though. What a movie, isn’t it? From what I’ve gathered, the Royal Family had not shown any endorsement of the film, but at least there was no opposition. I sure hope it can gain momentum and shoot for the Oscars.

    And LOL, for our interests in the same films… Liam Neeson is another great actor… just too bad he hasn’t been fortunate in getting good roles, same with Colin Firth, until more recent years.

    Have a good time in France and hope to read your postings while there!



  8. My husband and I are going to see this in about an hour; I cannot wait. My mother urged us to go, and I’m all the more eager after your review with accompanying photographs. She said that this king was ‘her’ King, that growing up as little girls she and her sister were almost expected to be Elizabeth and Margaret. She remembers his speeches, and she said it was like a film of her life. How fascinating, that history isn’t really all that removed from us.


    My childhood years were in the then British colony of HK. I grew up having heard of KGV, but not his son… maybe he was not as formidable as his father was. I’m glad this film has captured a very human and admirable aspect of KGVI… or else I wouldn’t have known of such a courageous man. It’s regrettable though that he had led such a short life, died in 1952, just a few years after WWII. And the rest, of course, is history, when QE was crowned in 1953. We used to have a holiday every year on her coronation day and her birthday.

    Hope you enjoy the movie. Curious to know what you think.



  9. I can hardly wait! Your beautifully written review is making me very antsy to see it. It won’t be today, sadly. But maybe this week, I hope.

    I have long loved Colin Firth, not least for his speech impediment. It is subtle, but it comes across when you’ve watched Pride & Prejudice as many times as I have, as well as other films of his.

    I love period pieces, and the costumes and sets look great.

    Imagine creating a film about something as seemingly mundane as this, and making it so appealing!


    I can’t think of anyone better to portray KGVI than CF. His acting is superb and the person is so understated and humble. I mean, of course, I don’t know him personally, but the persona that we can see and hear on interviews. All the films he has a lead role in recent years are excellent… starting with When Did You Last See Your Father, A Single Man, and now The King’s Speech.

    Interesting note about his ‘real’ stammer… I’ve watched P & P countless times too, but maybe not enough to notice 😉

    I’m sure you’ll enjoy this one.



  10. Thank you for this one, Arti!!!! I’m hoping to see the film this week or next. And am delighted that you find it Firth’s best so far! Wow, he’s just been so good, so steady, so “right there” on so many films. Looking forward to Rush’s performance as well; he’s such a chameleon (that’s a compliment.)

    I have been meaning to tell you that I saw TRUE GRIT last week. I was in the mood for a western, was sure Bridges would deliver (he did) and thought I knew/remembered the story.

    And so HM and I munched away on our popcorn and there were a few moments now and then that might be called humorous.

    And then, there was a climatic turn of events and well, I was pissed when I walked out of there. Sorry, sometimes I’d like a happy ending, thank you.

    In truth, the Coen brothers did a good job, modernized it in their way (of course it’s very dark) but drat – I wanted some entertainment….maybe I”ll read the book.

    Anyway, I’ll give it a 10 in filmworld. But in my heart, for entertainment value including my subjective viewpoint, I’ll give it a 6.


    Hey, thanks for your succinct review of True Grit. I was going to watch it over the holidays, but never had the time. But I plan to … I remember seeing the first TG movie, and that Glen Campbell was in it, but that’s about all. I look forward to Coen brothers’ rendition of it.

    I’d like to watch as many possible Oscar contenders as I can. So far I’ve seen, other than The King’s Speech, Black Swan and The Social Network. But don’t think I’ll write on them. Will also try to see Rabbit Hole, Somewhere, and Blue Valentine.

    Love to hear your view on King’s Speech after you’ve seen it.



  11. The King’s Speech starts on Feb 17 in Hong Kong, still a long way away and I just can’t wait. Thank you for the Review, so thorough and infomative. I’m sure I’ll agree to everything you said especially the talented & charming Colin Firth, my hero of all time. Counting the days to Feb. 17…..

    Molly Mavis,

    Feb. 17… not too late, just in time for the Oscars ten days later. I’d like to see what the response of a former colony is towards the film. Thanks for stopping by and leaving your comment.



  12. This sounds great! I wasn’t sure I would want to see it, but you have convinced me. I’m trying to imagine faking a stutter, and it sounds very, very hard!


    CF delivers not just the stammer but very sensitive and nuanced acting. This Sunday’s Golden Globe should be a good indicator of his chances for an Oscar. I’m sure you’ll enjoy the film.



  13. Great film but how strange to finish with Beethoven’s Emperor Concerto. A king rallying his country to the strains of a German extolling republicanism. Most odd.


    Welcome. Yes, that’s an issue reverberating in many sites I’ve visited, but somehow, most people seem to get over it and just enjoy it. I’ve discussed it in my last paragraph. Also, you might like to click on the links on those music sites I’ve provided at the end of the post to read on how music critics see the seemingly incompatible selections of music.

    Thanks for stopping by and leaving your comment!



  14. Hello, Arti,

    I see your comments on the blogs I so adore. Today Shoreacres and I were “talking” via email about “The King’s Speech” and she said, “You must visit Arti and read about the Globes and the movie.”

    So here I am. And you know I will return. I’ve been looking at all your posts and must concur with a bit of regret not hearing Geoffrey Rush’s speech. But Colin Firth — oh, I’m so glad you posted it. Then to read your take on the film — you express so eloquently all the things I felt about this marvelous movie.

    I look forward to returning and hope someday when you have time you pop over to The Marmelade Gypsy.


    Welcome! We do have a mutual friend over at The Task At Hand. I’m glad you’ve enjoyed TKS and Colin’s speech. It takes a classy character to be able to say such words… yes, so different from other award winners… or the host. Where would you hear genuine utterances of words and phrases such as ‘dignity’, ‘precarious’, ‘gentle reassurance’, ‘exquisite’, ‘appreciate the value of longevity in my relationships’, and ‘I can cope with just about any age as long as I can still see her’… I await his screenplay!

    Will definitely go and visit The Marmelade Gypsy. Thank you for stopping by and leaving your thoughts. Hope to hear from you again!



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