A man has trouble talking.
That is the problem of the movie.
In a time of coming war and political issues, this is the central topic of The King’s Speech.
And thank God.
We need the personal. (Or at least I do.) (However, the royals prefer not to talk about personal matters, thank you very much.)
But in stories of war and battle and oppression and abdication and debate and hate (sorry, I couldn’t resist the rhymes) we need the focus point.
You see, when you are teaching a person to dance, and they must do spins, a method to keeping them from losing balance and staying on task is to look at a specific point on the wall, like a clock or a sign or a mark, and look at that point for every turn. Spin and look. Spin and look. Spin and look. It usually works. (But as for me, I’m just a bad dancer, so it didn’t help much.)
But it sure helps in movies and art.
We need that personal connection, that human key, that focus point to keep us from getting dizzy. That’s why we don’t have a story about the Montagues and the Capulets- we have Romeo and Juliet. That’s why we don’t only have shots of numerous starships travel across space in Star Wars– we see the stories of Solo and Skywalker, Vader and Chewie. Sometimes it’s just a little focus point in a dizzy world at war. Sometimes it’s a couple examples in a larger story. And sometimes, it’s about the people themselves.
Such is true in The King’s Speech.
The story begins. And the Duke of York must make a speech. And he does. But each stammer, each stutter, each “uh” and “eh” and “k” and “da” and utterance echoes through Wimbley Stadium and through our theater. And you feel his pain. You feel his agony and embarrassment and shame and guilt and uncomfortable feelings. It’s something that Colin Firth – and the royals and British in general—are good at, simply because they are so respectful and honorable and proper and right. When they have to be improper or seemingly rude or wrong, they hate it. And the Duke hates his stammer. But he feels its just a part of him and he must deal with it.
– What problem do you have that you have resigned to? Why have you given up?
Fortunately, his wife is his advocate. She still believes. She fights for her husband, and finds Lionel. Odd, lovely Lionel. They go to great lengths to show how ridiculous Lionel is. He even admits his ridiculousness. But he has passion, that is sure.
He tries to create a focus point. He provides friendship to the Duke, so that he doesn’t have to worry about his brother’s (literal) affairs, or the King’s disapproval, or the millions of his subjects. He helps the Duke by calling him Bertie and having him call him Lionel and saying vowels at the top of his lungs and doing calisthenics and singing his feelings and bribing him with toy planes and glue. He grounds him. He becomes a friend, because the Duke has never had one.
– What can a friend do that no one else can?
But of course, the problems arise. Lionel crosses lines, as friends often do. The Duke, or Bertie, belittles Lionel, as friends shouldn’t do. And the two separate, as is human and normal. But will they come together? Can they be friends? Should they? It finally comes up (SPOILER) that Lionel is no doctor or professional—His methods are based on experience and though they have been effective, he has no credentials or degrees or letters after his name. But does it matter? Does it?
The King’s Speech is a brilliant picture of a man’s struggle, with his identity and failings and position and family—and friend. Beautiful shots and stimulating soundtrack create stunning scenes with awe-inducing performances. It must be seen. See it. In theaters if you can, but its okay if you wait. But just telling you, Firth will probably win the Academy Award for this role. So—watch it. Now.
– What is your focus point? What grounds you? What makes the big picture real and intimate? If you don’t know, find one. Now.