Starring: Colin Firth, Helena Bonham-Carter, Geoffrey Rush, Guy Pearce, Michael Gambon, Timothy Spall, Jennifer Ehle, Derek Jacobi, Claire Bloom and Ramona Marquez.
Running Time: 118 mins. approx.
Seen At: Parrs Wood Cinemas, Didsbury.
On: Monday, 10th January, 2011.
The true stories of the Royle Family are always a great success with award voters. Five years ago in 2006, Stephen Frears directed one of his finest films, The Queen, with Dame Helen Mirren’s magisterial portrayal of Queen Elizabeth II – for which she deservedly swept the accolade board.
Now, distinctive second time director Tom Hooper, already experienced with biopics in his first feature of football manager Brian Clough in The Damned United, collaborates with the immensely talented British actor, our very own Colin Firth, in the charming, inspirational and heartwarming true story of King George VI’s struggle to overcome a terrible stutter – and his tutorship under the speech therapist Dr. Lionel Logue, in his attempts to rectify the impediment.
It’s in fact his wife’s idea to find alternative treatment. Bertie, as he was affectionately known by his friends and family, had tried everything including marbles to aid in ridding him of his stammer.
There is a heartbreaking scene towards the beginning of the film, where, at one of his public speeches in the stands of a racecourse, the future King’s throat becomes clogged with the debilitating stammer, as his nerves get the better of him.
Remember, the mid nineteen thirties was also a time when the birth of radio was just starting to become conceptualized, so, up until a time came when more sophisticated recording devices were to be developed, politicians and newscasters had no choice but to deliver their speeches in public. So ensues an enduring, touching and at times highly amusing relationship with Logue, a charismatic Australian whose methods are more than just a little unorthodox… Don’t be too fooled by its seemingly simple premise though, there is a definite dark layer ever-present consistently, whether they be personal – (Goerge V’s death, or Bertie’s recounting of the premature death of his younger brother, Prince John, at the hands of the then unnamed disease of epilepsy). Or, on a far more worldwide scale – (the pounding threat of the impeding Second World War)...
Don’t at all be deterred to join the millions of cinemagoers who are currently sending the multiplexes takings skyrocketing though. One of the film’s most endlessly endearing qualities is its great capacity for warmth and humour, most notably in another attempt to help relax Bertie’s vocal chords, he lets fly a tirade of expletive swearing, in one of the funniest scenes.
The level of both the popularity and awards buzz surrounding this film is huge. In the truest possible sense of the phrase, it really has captured all the hearts of the nation.
Colin Firth, as was the case with Helen Mirren before him, has most deservedly won every major award of the season. It is an absolutely masterly performance. With the stutter in question, he captures it so expertly, you can even see Firth’s vocal chords tightening and blocking with vulnerability. There are even moments when the burden placed on him as the future King (due to his mocking brother, Guy Pearce’s Edward VII’s abdication of the throne thanks to his scandalous affair with the American socialite and divorcee Wallis Simpson), simply becomes too much.
Outstanding support includes a pitch-perfect performance from the eclectic Helena Bonham-Carter as Bertie’s wife (the future Queen Mother), and Geoffrey Rush’s wonderfully funny turn as therapist Lionel. ‘Your physicians are idiots’ he remarks. ‘They’ve all been knighted’ is Bertie’s reply. ‘Makes it official then’ is Logue’s smug retort.
Artistically, proceedings are a faultless marvel. Whether it be a gently atmospheric score by stalwart Alexandre Desplat, the haunting sight of blip zeppelin’s towering above the London cityscape, blisteringly voyeuristic, frequently low-angled cinematography from Danny Cohen to put us directly at the heart of the action, or an acerbically sharp, witty screenplay from David Seidler. The peerless final scene of Bertie’s final speech, where Logue is almost conducting opposite him as he addresses the troops and we cross-cut to the trenches accompanied by Beethoven, is so uplifting you’ll feel like cheering him on. A sensational delight and instant classic.