A Royal Lesson

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The King’s Speech has been in cinemas in other parts of the world since late November especially in the US where its executive producer Harvey Weinstein has had his eyes set on this year’s Oscars for quite some time. With the winners of the biggest film awards in world, not withstanding Bollywood ceromonies, to be announced later this month it now seems that his renowned impatience will be rewarded as the movie is up for 12 gongs.

For cinema goers in Belgium and much of the rest of continental Europe it has been a longish wait, but hopefully it will be a worthwhile one. This is a solidly well made film with strong performances by the two main leads Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush and a supporting cast including Helena Bonham Carter, Guy Pearce and Michael Gambon.

It will play well to anglophiles across Europe, as it has that measured pacing with a final emotional crescendo that closes the movie, think the Winslow Boy (1999). We Brits can’t do much more than that in a two hour movie. However, this should not put you off if you are not a fan of this type of movie.

Prince George, known within the Royal family as “Bertie” is second in line to the throne but suffers from a terrible stammer, which we witness at the start of the movie as he tries to officially open the  Empire Games at Wembley in 1925. The prince’s efforts are painful for those who are watching and listening  and the episode has a devastating effect on his confidence.

For a decade George’s appearances are kept to those of well wishing and factory openings and it is his dashing elder brother Edward who is very much in the limelight. However, though dashing he also has all the characteristics of a playboy and finally ends up by upsetting upper class society’s moral sensibilities by dating and then proposing to an American divorcee Wallis Simpson.

In the meantime Bertie in a final attempt by his wife Elizabeth (Bonham Carter) to find a cure for his affliction is sent to see an eccentric Australian speech therapist, Lionel Logue. Geographically and socially they are opposite ends of the world and what ensues is a comedy of manners as they attempt to find some common ground. 

What this film succeeds in doing is giving an emotional depth to an apparent bunch of “stiffs”. There is a delightful scene when Bertie makes up a story for his daughters Elizabeth and Margaret. That were lot’s of Lizzes around in the 30s. There are also several touching scenes between Firth and Bonham Carter and for cineastes a delicious moment when Bertie meets Logue’s unsuspecting wife (Jennifer Ehle), they played opposite each other in the BBC’s 1995 version of Pride and Prejudice.      

The film also rounds out the relationship between Bertie and Logue with certain scenes containing language that would have been more appropriate in a public bar rather than at court, but then would do you expect from an Aussie teacher?

Following his brother’s abdication the now crowned George is faced with again talking to the Empire and rallying it to do battle against Nazi Germany. Cue panic in government circles and a sense of foreboding amongst those close to the king. Does he succeed in giving the king’s speech that is needed, I will leave that for the reader to decide.