Being British and having an interest in the history of my country I tend to know quite a bit about key events in the UK's past. That being said, while I am pro monarchy, I do not know that much about the Royal Family, especially those after Queen Victoria. All I knew of George VI before this film was that he became king after Edward VIII abdicated and had trouble speaking. This is probably the same as most peoples knowledge, so seeing and finding out more about him in this film was a real treat when it was tied to a truly inspirational story.
The story follows the life of the Duke of York, younger brother to the heir to the British throne, from his early public appearances in the early days of radio broadcasting up to the declaration of war with Germany, by which time he has become King George VI. The film begins with his first broadcast speech which is a disaster due to his stammering. After trying many experts to help with his public speaking, the Duchess of York goes to see Lionel Logue, a different type of speech therapist with the hope he will be able to help. Reluctantly the Duke agrees to meet him and the story develops from there.
There are many aspects of this film that make it as good as it is, but for me the most gripping part is the story itself. It is truly inspirational, and at the basic level is about a man overcoming a disability. While there are not really twists and turns to it, and if you know anything about history then you know the basic outcome, but it is still thrilling to watch unfold. The aspect of it that I enjoyed the most is that while it follows the standard rules of initial success, set back, then finally overcoming the disability it never lets you think it is all over and shows the view it is something the character will always have to live with. I found this quite refreshing as most of these sorts of films I have seen left me thinking that by the end of the film they are cured and never have to worry about the problem again.
The other key elements are the performances of the two leads, Colin Firth as George VI and Geoffrey Rush as Lionel Logue. Firth is truly deserving of the best actor Oscar he won for this role, as without a performance this strong I feel the film would have struggled to show just how debilitating the condition would be. Firth nails the nuances of the character making him likable, strong and sympathetic. His comic timing is brilliant and helps to give the humor a little bit more punch. While e may not look the part as well as others in the film he never the less makes the role believable and I was always behind the character.
Geoffrey Rush is just as good as in his role as Logue as Firth is as George VI. While Firth is more subtle in his role, Rush is at times larger than life and loud and they both complement each other wonderfully. As with Firth if Rush's performance was not up tot the same level then the film would have struggled. As it is he is warm, caring and truly likable throughout. I espically liked his moments with his family and were a nice contrast to the life of Bertie in the place.
As for the supporting cast, most were superb. My two favorites being Helena Bonham Carter as The Duchess of York and Guy Pearce as Edward VIII. Carter was brilliant in her role and lovable from the start helping to make the relationship between her and Firth easy to watch from the start. She nails the element of love but sadness she has for her husband. Pearce on the other hand is perfect as Edward VIII, I do think that his portrayal is a little harsh but he is superb in the role. He looks the part and at times can be truly unlikable, especially when he is talking down to Bertie in Scotland. This is another performance that makes me a bit sad that Guy Pearce has never quite made it to the level of stardom he deserves.
There are only two aspects of the film I was not keen on. The first is Timothy Spall as Winston Chruchill, I just did not like him in the role. I think it is because every other thing I have ever seen him in he plays a much weaker character and suddenly I have to buy him as one of the strongest people in British history. It is a bit of a stretch. The other is the actress who plays Princess Margaret. I like the girl and I think she is great but again having seen her in the BBC sitcom Outnumbered I kept expecting her to make funny jokes all the time and I found that I little distracting. These are hardly major issues but they were the ones I had while watching.
In conclusion this is a wonderful film that is easy to recommend to anyone interested in seeing an uplifting and inspirational story and some superb performances.