In 1925, King George V(Michael Gambon) asks his second son Prince Albert(Colin Firth), Duke of York to address the closing ceremony of the Empire Exhibition at Wembley Stadium. Albert stammers through the speech and eventually makes the crowd uneasy. When several treatments fail to cure Albert, his wife Elizabeth(Helena Bonham Carter), Duchess of York pays a visit to Lionel Logue(Geoffrey Rush). Lionel has been successful in treating speech impediments through his unorthodox ways and Elizabeth came to know about him through a friend. Lionel agrees with conditions. Albert has to come over to his clinic for treatment and there will be equality between the doctor and the patient.
Albert arrives for the first session. But he refuses to believe Lionel and hates Lionel’s methods. So he storms out of the clinic. Later, after making the Christmas speech, King George V confides in Albert. The father tells the son the importance of radio in the future. He also talks about his first son Prince of Wales(Guy Pearce). King George V does not like the womanizing and carefree life of his first son which is unbecoming of a future king. Albert understands he will be king one day if his brother turns out to be incapable. But Albert fears that day because of his disability. Once again, Albert goes to Lionel. Though the men work together on Albert’s problem, there are events that will test their friendship and confidence. With Hitler rallying the Germans and his elder brother’s disinterest in politics, Albert is forced to a corner.
Tom Hopper directs this movie which focuses on the dilemma faced by a public figure who reluctantly rises up to occasion despite his several misgivings like lack of confidence, disability etc. Although the historical facts might be distorted, the movie eventually provides adequate drama to make this an interesting watch. The story spans from first disastrous speech given by Prince Albert to the successful address given to the nation on the eve of war. In order to tell a compelling story, Tom is backed up by a team of veterans who perform their roles with ease giving a delightful and original interpretation of the various public figures. Finally, it is the performances that wins over the audience even though the pace of the movie is a bit slow.
Colin Firth gives a moving performance as Prince Albert. Colin’s Prince Albert knows his elder brother is not capable of doing his duty as a king. While he fights to cure himself of his speech impediment, he is also besieged with various emotions. Is he betraying his brother? Can this be interpreted as treason? Finally, he is also frustrated by the previous failed attempts in correcting him of this disability. The few scenes that brings the best of him are when he narrates a bed time story to his two daughters, the way he avoids looking into Lionel’s face during their sessions and the sudden angry outbreaks. The look on Colin’s face, who is now King George VI, after delivering the address to the nation tells volumes about his capability as an actor. Colin successfully incorporates the stammering while delivering his lines and makes the audience believe he has a speech impediment. At no place, it comes out as phony.
The supporting cast has several bigwigs – Helena Bonham Carter, Geoffrey Rush, Michael Gambon, Guy Pierce, Derek Jacobi and Timothy Spall. Geoffrey Rush displays shades of his earlier roles of a tireless mentor in Lionel. Although he has done justice to the role, it is not a new one as he has done several like these in the past. Helena Bonham Carter as Duchess of York enacts a determined and caring wife who tirelessly helps her husband. The way she interacts with commoners combined with her subtle eye movements and raised eyebrows brings in a quite a few laughs. When she snubs Wallis Simpson, we believe she is royalty. Michael Gambon has only two scenes – one in which he pressurizes Albert into delivering a speech after ranting about his incompetent first son and the rambling old man in his deathbed. The two scenes are enough to showcase his acting prowess. Guy Pierce is casual and mean as Prince of Wales.
Go for it and enjoy the performances.