Sadly overlooked for the brilliant film ‘A Single Man’ in 2010, Colin Firth is back again with an illuminating performance in ‘the King’s Speech.’ With a best actor nod and win at the golden globes for Firth, a best supporting actor nomination for Geoffrey Rush and a best supporting actress nomination for Helena Bonham Carter, this film is set to gain just as many Oscar nods in the next week or so.
The British Monarchy has long fascinated millions with its history of love, lust, cruelty, bravery and the importance of the church in its life i.e. Henry the VIII, Mary Tudor, Elizabeth I, and Queen Victoria. Of course, there is still such an overwhelming fascination at present with the current house of Windsor and Queen Elizabeth II,( as well as her family) daughter of King George the VI – played by Firth in his latest role. It is a well chosen role for Colin Firth who at age 50, seems to shine even more, in choosing meaty, challenging characters, gaining critical acclaim and fantastic reviews. Although currently a previous academy award nominee, one is fairly sure that Firth fully deserves all accolades he is certain to receive for this film, as one watches in awe, how Firth deals with this sweet, yet sturdy and extremely difficult role. It is also a well known fact, when playing someone alive, or a relative of someone alive, there is a certain responsibility of staying true to the essence of that person; it is especially challenging when that person was a king and the father of the current queen of Great Britain.
The King’s Speech, strangely, has not done well amongst regular film goers, instead the film has opened in smaller cinemas and not scored in the same realm as its larger, big- budgeted counterparts. Could be because of its 17+ rating, yet, it is such a brilliant piece of work, in terms of directing (by Tom Hooper) and acting, it makes one wonder how the true quality of a film is assessed in Hollywood. Colin Firth clearly leaves his mark on this role. He is remarkable in making his audience struggle along with him; through a mere swallowing to catch a breath, or as he allows the air to flow with his words, and even to articulate simple sentences without a painful stutter or stammer. The audience feels his deepest pain when he is confronted by his speech therapist as to what might have triggered this long standing debilitating challenge, and when he mentions that childhood bullying induced the stammer, it is difficult to endure. You find yourself holding a quiet breath when he speaks, cheering on when a sentence is cleared, gasping with sadness when he is unable to get it out.
Firth’s face is mostly serene, yet every expression is deep and quietly meaningful, as he carries himself with stoicism and the typical ‘let’s get on with it’ attitude attributed to British monarchy. His eyes are as expressive as his face, with his portrayal of love for his wife and children ( it is clear he adores them), to eventual and reluctant respect bestowed towards his speech therapist, who clearly becomes his friend. Firth’s beloved wife in this film, and powerful ally with nerves of steel is played by none other than Helena Bonham Carter. Yes, this is Bellatrix Lestrange, to those Harry Potter fans. She is every bit the queen mother in this role, and you do fall in love with her for her no-nonsense, take charge attitude and down to earth yet, aristocratic figure. It is because of her that Bertie (as King George the VI is affectionately known) sees the Australian speech therapist: Lionel Logue. Logue is played by the brilliant Geoffrey Rush, who is no stranger to the big screen. He is comical, tolerant and anything but traditional. His lovely wife is played by Jennifer Ehle ( Lizzie Bennet opposite Colin Firth in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice). Firth’s brilliant supporting cast in this film, include Michael Gambon as his ailing father and ( Harry Potter’s Albus Dumbledore) King George the V, Timothy Spall ( Wormtail in the Harry Potter films) who plays a wonderful Winston Churchill, Guy Pierce who plays his handsome, playboy brother- The Duke of Windsor and Derek Jacoby who plays the archbishop of Canterbury. Every one of these actors is as brilliant as Firth and they shine in their supporting roles which makes this film completely Academy Award worthy and one of Hollywood’s best made films to date.