"A film that made me feel proud to be British in its fighting spirit and great sense of humour..."
As period dramas go, you know you're onto a good thing when Colin Firth and Helena Bonham Carter are billed as the leading characters. Both are far from unfamiliar with donning a top hat or corset and enunciating their T's and aitches like the Queen, but that is because they are extremely good at what they do, and if something works, go with it- and boy did this work.
Firth plays King George VI,who in 1936 became the reluctant King of England after his brother Edward VIII abdicated the throne to marry the twice divorced American socialite Wallice Simpson. However not only was George deemed unfit to take the throne but he also suffered with a terrible speech impediment. He finds help and a real friend with the unorthodox but brilliant speech therapist Lionel Logue played by a brilliant Geoffrey Rush. It is the importance of their relationship, to Bertie and indeed the country, who needed a strong leader as England was plunged into war, that provides the focal point for this deeply moving and fascinating true story.
Carter plays the kind and loving but extremely strong Queen Elizabeth (The Queen Mother), wife of George, or Bertie as he was affectionately known. She plays the role brilliantly and in true Helena Bonham Carter style, perfects the Queen mum, with all her British Royal airs and graces. She is Bertie's back bone and loyal friend as well as wife, and it is refreshing to be presented with a loving and strong royal marriage in a time where romance was a luxury in a royal union and showing one's emotion was simply against the rules.
However as familiar as the actors may be, there is nothing familiar about The Queens Speech, which breaks the mold in terms of period bio pics, and truly is in a league of its own. Far from feeling like a stuffy, run of the mill, historical drama, the film seems to capture a buoyancy and unusual lightness through Danny Cohen's breathtaking cinematography which refuses to conform to the genre's stereotypes. Characters are rarely placed in the centre of a shot, but instead the colours of the walls or the angle of the shot are as prominent as the dialogue, every scene is beautiful in its own right.
This film could have played out so differently, but Tom Cooper manages to achieve an upbeat, and at times humorous pace throughout the film, yet still achieving the drama and poignancy that the story deserves. Colin Firth's portrayal of the stubborn but honourable King George is truly Oscar worthy, and the script brings to life the important relationship between Bertie and Lionel, at a time when a royal Prince would never have even met a 'commoner' let alone befriend one. For at least the first half of the film, there is laughter in almost every scene, and Firth brings dead pan comedy to even the most awkward of scenes. His character makes light of his despairing situation and we are shown a King who as well as a fierce temper has a truly British sense of humour that humanises and equalises the two friends as they struggle to overcome Bertie's truly debilitating stammer which threatens to tarnish his leadership and his people's faith in him.
The film takes a more serious note as the country is brought reluctantly into war with Germany, and the king's personal demons run parallel with the plight of the country. The sense of desperation and camaraderie mounts, evoked by Alexandre Desplat's stirring score. In fact the final piece of music in the film, that is played as the King finally delivers his famous speech, is so powerful, I honestly had goosebumps, as well as tears streaming down my face.
This is a film, much like it's subject, that defies tradition, yet truly made me feel proud to be British in its sense of fighting spirit with a great sense of humour, and maybe even slightly more affection for the monarchy.
THE KING'S SPEECH IS RELEASED IN UK CINEMAS ON JANUARY 7TH 2011