When you go in to see a film with the prior knowledge that it has won all kinds of awards and got critical acclaim it can sometimes make it seem a bit of a let down. The King’s Speech has won the awards and got the acclaim but it’s no let down. I suppose if you only like films with 13 car chases in the first half hour, masses of 3D CGI and someone who used to be a rapper then you might be disappointed.
We went to see it last night at Runcorn Cineworld and got off to a terrible start when the trailers and adverts played with sound only and without anything appearing on screen (or maybe that was actually a better start!). No-one in the auditorium seemed to want to go and tell the staff about the fault so I had to go and do it (if I hadn’t would we all have sat and listened to a 2-hour film without any actual image on screen?! Us Brits really don’t like to make a fuss, you know). A nervous young Cineworld employee came in and had his own King’s Speech moment when he had to anounce to us all that there was a problem with the new projectors and that they were trying to sort it out. A couple of minutes later images appeared on screen and the new projectors proved to be worth the wait because the picture was the clearest I’ve ever seen. Nobody cares about that kind of technical stuff, I know, but I do so there (if I watch a film it has to be in exactly the right screen ratio, focussed to perfection and without even a hair off the head of the person in front getting in the way. That’s without even mentioning the issue of Nacho eaters!! Anyway… I digress).
The film tells the story of King George VI of Britain, his impromptu ascension to the throne and the speech therapist who helped the unsure monarch become worthy of that position. The subject matter has the potential to result in a dry, creaky old period drama but that isn’t what I saw. I think this may be one of the best films I’ve ever seen. The script by David Seidler is touching and funny, the direction by Tom Hooper is subtle but emotional, and the quality of the acting is overwhelming.
I’ve never been a big fan of Colin Firth but his performance in this film has made me change my mind completely. He is absolutely brilliant in his portrayal of the King and makes us feel the agony the character is going through. Geoffrey Rush as Logue, the speech therapist, is also breathtaking. The whole story is really a two-hander between these two fascinating characters. The most effective parts of the movie are when these two are on screen culminating in a superb climax when Logue supports Bertie through the ordeal of the speech to the nation at the outbreak of the Second World War.
The story held a lot of poignancy for me because I’ve had a similar problem with public speaking my whole life. I don’t have a stammer but I’ve always found it nearly impossible to speak in front of more than three or four people without feeling like the breath has left my lungs and going into a panic attack. I think part of why I write this blog is because its a way of communicating without having to actually speak in front of people. Seeing the scene in the film where Bertie walks towards the room where he will have to give the big speech I found harrowing. But also brilliant, touching and uplifting.
Some people say that stage plays (this film was adapted from the stage) don’t often make good cinema. They’re wrong in this case at least. Yes, the scenes are long and mostly consist of people talking in interiors. But the strength of feeling created by the acting, writing and direction was more than enough to keep me totally gripped for every second. I love films but I rarely come out of the cinema feeling as touched, as inspired and as impressed as I did after this one. I didn’t even notice the Nachos.