Directed by Tom Hooper
Running Time: 118 minutes
After tackling the complex character of Brian Clough in The Damned United, Tom Hooper’s latst film returns again to a portrayal of a flawed individual very much in the public eye. This time the focus is on George VI – played by Colin Firth – and his struggles with a stammer and impending ascendancy to the throne. After trying numerous techniques and specialists to aid his speech impediment, he turns to the slightly unconventional yet warm and friendly Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush).
It is testament to the cast that this film is such a pleasure to watch and an even greater one to writer David Seidler that the film brims with such a funny and affectionate human element. The relationship between George VI and Logue is one of the best seen on screen in recent years. From their cagey start, with George VI having particular trouble with being referred to as Bertie – a name used only by his family – to the wonderful finale which sees Logue conduct the King through his first speech as monarch following the declaration of war with Germany.
All the hype surrounding Colin Firth is warranted as his portrayal of George VI is magnificent, with every stutter and stammer you fell a sense of disappointment and failure he has with himself. Geoffrey Rush too excels in his role as he slowly chips away at the stiff royal exterior of the King with kindness and scampish bravado.
Credit too to the supporting cast. In a mere two scenes, Michael Gambon goes from an assured and strong King George V whose fearful influence has clearly had great effect on his son’s confidence and stammer through his formative years to a frail and confused man unaware of what is happening around him. Elsewhere, Helena Bonham Carter brings at times a playfulness to Queen Elizabeth while Guy Pearce produces a slightly over the top performance as playboy brother Edward VIII.
In a well acted, elegant looking and neatly shot film, perhaps the last thing you’d expect is to laugh quite so much but surprisingly humour plays a large part over the course of the running time. Early meetings between George VI and Logue are at times hilarious as the King is encouraged to warble along to songs, have Queen Elizabeth sit on him and yell indecipherable vowels out an open window. The highlight however is saved for an out of the blue spout of regal swearing that Malcolm Tucker himself would be proud of. It is this which elevates a well produced character examination up to one of the more charming and uplifting releases we are likely to see this year.