One of the best movies of the year 2010. The acting is superb, so good, that you can’t tell they are acting.
King George VI of England took the throne after his father, George V, died and his older brother David abdicated – because parliament and the country did not approve of a king marrying an American twice divorced and still not entirely monogamous woman. Bertie, as his family and everyone else, behind his back, called him, was a dedicated and conscientious monarch who took his role seriously. He had one problem: A severe stammer, making it pretty much impossible to speak in public.
Being a part of Toastmasters International, the worldwide organization dedicated to teaching public speaking, I am especially aware of the challenges we all face when standing in front of groups of people, small or large.
A stammer for a king is about the most devastating impediment thinkable, much like being a soccer player without legs or a basketball star without arms. A king speaks to his people, and when the king speaks, he speaks for the people. This was particularly important when the age of radio just started, and speeches were no longer for a few hundred or a few thousand people at best, but rather for millions of people. During the Thirties, the King of England reigned over a quarter of the world’s population. His impediment was set in stark contrast to Hitler, who was a very powerful speaker who built an empire, albeit an evil one, on the power of his oratory. Then there was Franklin D. Roosevelt across the Atlantic, who consoled his nation through radio broadcast fireside chats.
Through circuitous ways, Bertie connects with Lionel, an eccentric speech therapist who, after all the experts in the empire failed, gets through to him and actually helps him. An unlikely friendship of a common man, the son of a brewer, and a king, the son of a king, forms when therapist helps patient and patient learns to trust the therapist, and himself.
This movie provides a bright glimpse behind the curtains of British royalty. I didn’t know about David’s abdication and the surrounding scandals. This happened years before I was born and I was never much interested in British royalty. Queen Elizabeth is the only English Queen I have ever known. As of now, she is the third longest serving English monarch in history. Elizabeth is Bertie’s oldest daughter and is a minor role in the movie.
The King’s Speech is a powerful and entertaining movie, the kind where the audience applauds when the credits run and where people remain sitting through the credits in wonderment. It was a movie that I didn’t want to end.