The K-K-King’s S-S-Speech

Set in the 1920s and 1930s, The King’s Speech is an instantly absorbing true-story drama about the relationship between an ideal odd couple: introverted stammerer King George VI and his exuberant Australian speech therapist Lionel Logue. The Duke must overcome his debilitating stammer and rally the British people during the dark days before WWII.

The film begins with Prince Albert, son of King George V, getting ready to speak at the Wembley Stadium with his wife Elizabeth by his side. Yet the stammering speech is nothing but public humiliation, and unsettles thousands of listeners. Seeking to overcome his impediment, Albert sees various speech therapists. Suggested treatments range from smoking as a way of relaxing to reading outloud with seven marbles in his mouth. As a result of the constant failure and the accompanying heavy anger, he vows to cease any further attemps to cure his handicap.

Behind his back, the Duke’s wife Elisabeth goes to meet Lionel Logue – an Australian speech therapist that now lives in London – and convinces her husband to pay him a visit. In their first session, Logue insists that the Duke calls him Lionel (avoiding more formal forms of addresses involving Mr. or Doctor) and in return, calls the Duke Bertie despite the social status of his patient. He proposes Albert to read Hamlet’s to be or not to be while listening to Mozart’s Marriage du Figaro on headphones – preventing him to hear his own voice while speaking. Albert, still thinking he stammered throughout, leaves the room with yet another sense of failure. Just before doing so, Logue offers him the recording of his reading as a memory.

With mounting considerable public humiliation, one day while getting some rest, Albert decides to put on Logue’s recording. He is surprised: he hears himself reciting Shakespeare in his own voice – unbroken and unstammered. He returns to Logue, and their daily sessions begin. The memorable dialogue between Albert and Lionel develops further as the Duke’s father passes out, and the monarchy passes on to him as a result of his older brother’s choice of a twice-divorced Baltimore woman over his country.

The King’s Speech is the remarkable and unlikely dialogue between a Duke and a so-called-therapist with no doctor background or whatsoever. It is a dialogue between two men from the opposite sides of the class division. It is a dialogue between two friends.  This is a heart-breaking yet humorous story of a man who has so much to say – yet cannot articulate words and connect syllables. This is two brilliant actors acting brilliantly together.

Very few movies have the ability to literally take its audience into the story. Last night while I was watching this movie, I was smiling watching Colin Firth finishing a sentence without stammering and was putting a sad face feeling the embarassment/failure/humiliation he experienced when he could not even articulate the first word of a paragraph. This is a rich story of a teacher and a monarch with a flag-waving finale. Every character has its moments and instances. Every act is more meaningful than the previous one. The King’s Speech is a superbly executed insight into an untold piece of history. The dialogue is eloquent and the acting is sublime. It sure is one of the best films of the year – if not the best.

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