After the death of his father King George V (Michael Gambon) and the scandalous abdication of King Edward VIII (Guy Pearce), Bertie (Colin Firth) who has suffered from a debilitating speech impediment all his life, is suddenly crowned King George VI of England. With his country on the brink of war and in desperate need of a leader, his wife, Elizabeth (Helena Bonham Carter), the future Queen Mother, arranges for her husband to see an eccentric speech therapist, Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush). After a rough start, the two delve into an unorthodox course of treatment and eventually form an unbreakable bond. With the support of Logue, his family, his government and Winston Churchill (Timothy Spall), the King will overcome his stammer and deliver a radio-address that inspires his people and unites them in battle. Based on the true story of King George VI, “The King’s Speech” follows the Royal Monarch’s quest to find his voice.
Candidates for president and prime minister choose to run, but kings rarely have a choice. Such was the case for Prince Albert, known by family members as Bertie (Colin Firth), whose stutter made public speaking difficult. Upon the death of his father, George V (Michael Gambon, making the most of a small part), the crown went to Bertie’s brother, Edward VIII (Guy Pearce), who abdicated to marry divorc?e Wallis Simpson. All the while, Bertie and his wife, Elizabeth (Helena Bonham Carter, excellent), try to find a solution to his stammer. Nothing works until they meet Australian ?migr? Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush), a failed actor operating out of a threadbare office. He believes Bertie’s problem stems from emotional rather than physiological issues, leading to a clash of wills that allows the Oscar?-winning Rush (Shine) and the Oscar-nominated Firth (A Single Man) to do some of their best work (in a neat bit of casting, Firth’s Pride and Prejudice costar, Jennifer Ehle, plays Logue’s wife). All their efforts, from the tense to the comic–Bertie doesn’t stutter when he swears–lead to the speech King George VI must make to the British public on the eve of World War II. At a time when his country needs him the most, he can’t afford to fail. As Stephen Frears did in The Queen, Tom Hooper (HBO’s Elizabeth I) lends vulnerability to a royal figure, showing how isolating that life can be–and how much difference a no-nonsense friend like Logue can make. –Kathleen C. Fennessy