Review: The King’s Speech

We saw this at Clapham Picturehouse on 29 January, on a bitterly cold night when we would have been glad to have been inside just about anywhere. Clapham Picturehouse is of course better than just anywhere. And The King’s Speech is better than just any film. But you knew that from the hype of course. There were no tickets left for any shows that day. So, what’s special about it? Well, it’s visually ‘sticky’ – creates a look and feel that stays with you after the film. That slightly greyed colour wash that says pre-war, signals the dark days of Hitler’s rise. That hyper focused lens that makes every face look startlingly pasty and real. It does a wonderful job of exploring relationships both between men (always a rare treat to see that done well) and between men and women. I was really moved by several moments in the relationship between Lionel and Bertie, the way they negotiated anger and skirted openness. And perhaps even more so between Bertie and Liz, especially the moments where she was silently gripped by both her love for him and her fear on his behalf. All three leads were excellent, note perfect – Colin Firth a splendid mix of vulnerability and principle, Geoffrey Rush the human heart of the film, Helena Bonham Carter as good as you’ve ever seen her. Some of the small parts were also nicely nuanced, like those played by Elizabeth Bennet (sorry, I mean the always excellent Jennifer Ehle). And the eponymous speech, the one George VI gave on the announcement of war – wow. Gripping, both in context of the film but to really focus on the words of the speech in a totally new way. It really mattered that he got it right, and the director really makes you care.

So, it’s a very good film, ‘best actor’ Oscar worthy for arguably all the leads. I enjoyed it. The only thing is that it’s a little bit on wheels. There are no surprises. The archbishop is evil (it’s Derek Jacobi, of course he is), the brother is feckless (it’s Guy Pearce, of course he is), Wallis Simpson is both evil and feckless. There are no bumps on the road, loops are closed, ends polished. And that might be fine, but I was just a tiny bit disappointed that it was so neatly packaged. A very very nice package, like a lovely sweater in a wearable colour. And who knows, the judges for ‘best film’ might well feel like being comfy. Or if they prefer to drag out the insane slashed leather dress that is Inception.

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