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The must-see-movie of 2010 has to be The King’s Speech. It’s a stunningly accomplished production with a gripping story of two men absolutely determined to overcome the profound speech impediment of one of them.
The Duke of York, ‘Bertie’ (Colin Firth), has been thrust into power at almost a moment’s notice after his brother (a surprisingly good Guy Pearce) abdicates rather than give up his relationship with a divorced woman. Like all regents, a great deal of public speaking is required as part of the office. But King George VI suffers from a very serious speech impediment that makes it almost impossible for him to string a sentence together making for some very embarrassing moments – especially in the new era of radio that made mass communication possible.
The serious stammer began when Bertie was 4 or 5 years old and plagued him ever since. As a result, Bertie is not considered suitable to be king. So Bertie engages the assistance of an unorthodox and eccentric speech therapist, Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush), to help him overcome his impediment. Together, during an unexpected and enduring friendship, the two men work on Bertie’s problem with some very funny, sad, terrifying, dramatic moments. The King’s Speech is the story of this friendship and the incredible perseverance that helped King George become the king he needed to be.
Along with the perseverance, both King George and Lionel are pushed into territory neither has visited before. Both have to grapple with a certain degree of pride and arrogance. In a real sense, both of the main protagonists need each other. Both are deeply frustrated people – Bertie in his inability to rise to the expectations of those around him and Lionel’s finding a place for his self-proclaimed brilliance as an actor.
What Bertie needs to come to realize is that power, position, and privilege are not enough to be successful. And help to become a success is often found in the most unlikely places. For Bertie and his wife, condescending to the place of the common person and a willingness to acknowledge one’s need and take help from what appears to be someone who doesn’t fit one’s normal expectations, are essential components to overcoming a deep, intractable, and apparently insurmountable problem. Once Bertie and Elizabeth are able to put aside the irrelevancies of their power, position, and privilege, things start to happen and history has recorded the way in which a flawed man came to lead a nation in a time of great social need.
Parallels with aspects of the Gospel are obvious. For flawed humans, salvation has come from an “eccentric” source. Who would have thought a child born in humiliating circumstances, rejected by society, and suffering an ignominious death, would be the key to redemption! But for those who rely on power, position, and privilege for emancipation will not see or acknowledge their need. To become like the children, women, slaves, and outcasts of Jesus’ day and to acknowledge our need of the peculiar person of Jesus Christ is to abandon reliance on our own measly measures to rescue ourselves. It means experiencing the emancipatory reality of a new life that overcomes our flawed inheritance. When that happens, anything can happen!
The King’s Speech is a nearly perfect movie. It is a deeply moving human story. Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush, Helena Bonham Carter (who plays Queen Elizabeth, Bertie’s wife), and Derek Jacobi (playing Archbishop Cosmo Lang) are superb in their roles. Firth, Rush, and Carter are real contenders for Oscars and it wouldn’t be a surprise to me if the movie took out Best Picture. The script is smart as a whip and the sets and costumes superb.
A stunning piece of story-telling, The King’s Speech is one movie you must not miss!
Steve Parker reviews movies and books and comments on things of interest to Christians who are thoughtful about their faith on his blog, Thinking Christian, where this review was first published. He writes from Adelaide, Australia.