Classic British Films #1: The King’s Speech (2010)

This review is the first in a film series entitled ‘Classic British Films’, and I am beginning with a very recent, but very famous British film; The King’s Speech. Although you may have not seen this British classic, it is likely you will have heard of this famous film.

The King’s Speech tells the true story of King George VI, son of King George V and father of our current Queen Elizabeth II, and his issues with stammering. When the film begins, the then Prince Albert is failing to find a successful treatment for his condition, and is increasingly nervous at the prospect of making public speeches on behalf of the Royal family. As a last resort, and on the suggestion of his wife, the future Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, he visits the Australian speech therapist Lionel Logue, running an informal speech and language clinic in London. Although focusing on the King’s stammer as the main issue, the film also delves into the Royal family in their personal lives at a time when the Second World War was approaching, and the death of King George V was getting closer, with the question of succession arising.

The King’s Speech has a brilliant cast comprised of some of the greatest British actors around, including Colin Firth as King George VI, Helena Bonham Carter as his wife Queen Elizabeth, Michael Gambon as King George V, Claire Bloom as his wife Queen Mary and Derek Jacobi as The Archbishop of Canterbury. The Australian actors Geoffrey Rush and Guy Pearce play Lionel Logue and the King’s older brother, King Edward VIII, respectively. The entire cast is simply superb.

The King’s Speech is a wonderful British drama and what makes it so wonderful and defiantly a ‘Classic British Film’ is the acting from the two leads – Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush. Both have great chemistry on screen, so it is very believable that they could be friends. It is difficult to imagine anyone other than Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush playing the King and Logue. Aided with an excellent script, both play characters who are charming and, in Firth’s case, also troubled. But this film isn’t just one, long drama about a man’s struggle with his speech. There are touching moments, especially between Colin Firth and Helena Bonham Carter, and also funny moments between Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush. This allows the film to be enjoyable, but also makes you think at the same time.

In understanding more about how the King stammered, Firth worked with voice coach Neil Swain before and during production. His sister, Kate Firth, is a professional voice coach and also helped Firth in his research. Firth also watched extensive footage of the King making speeches throughout his lifetime to better understand his stammering and how it had altered throughout the years.

Tom Hopper is a great visual director, and has since gone on to direct the world-famous Les Misérables. Hopper has a great visual technique of placing a character at the edge of a scene, so you see more of the background than the character. This makes Hopper’s style unique and his directing instantly recognisable. The locations used in The King’s Speech are also a great visual addition, with beautiful locations such as Ely Cathedral in Cambridgeshire and the Old Royal Naval College in Greenwich being used. The locations, aswell as the costumes, manage to perfectly capture 1930’s Britain.

As with any film based on historical events, there are bound to be some inaccuracies. However, The Kings Speech is so good that anything obviously put in for dramatic effect isn’t an issue when watching. The production team discovered several weeks before filming begun that Logue had kept diaries detailing his time with the King. The script was quickly re-worked to add some of the material from the diaries, and several famous lines in the film are direct quotations.

On its release in January 2011, The King’s Speech was received with enormous critical acclaim, and was hailed as one of the most successful independent films ever made. With widespread positive reviews and a large box office earn, it went on to become one of the highest grossing films of 2011. It also did extremely well during award season, with 7 BAFTAs, 1 Golden Globe and 4 Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Actor in a Leading Role, Best Director and Best Screenplay, aswell as 8 other nominations, more than any other film that year.

The King’s Speech is a wonderful British film, and is already on track to be a British Classic. If you have not seen it, I guarantee you will not be disappointed in seeking it out.

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About writingsuzanne

History graduate. Freelance writer and reviewer. Passionate about film, theatre and music (film soundtracks!).
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