Rating: 5 out of 5
In spite of apparently having everything in life, the second son of King George V of England had one troubling impediment: a debilitating stammer.
Prince Albert, or Bertie as he was affectionately known, was a high-ranking member of the Royal family. As such he was obliged to make speeches periodically. Every one became a nightmare for him. To overcome this affliction he had tried every form of speech therapy but none worked. Fortunately for him, he had a wonderful loving wife who persevered.
Through her devotion, she discovered an unorthodox Speech Therapist by the name of Lionel Logue who was successful by reputation. However he is not conventionally trained. This fact is not initially discovered & when it is, immediately prior to Prince Albert’s coronation as King, this fact almost derails Bertie’s plans to allow him entrance as a special guest.
Partly what makes this drama work are the disparate currents which criss-cross the script, one being the commoner versus king contrast. This exposes the underlying class system & the parallel universes in which the denizens of each lived.
The cross currents of the initial relationship between Albert & Lionel are another facet which engages one. This is fraught with pathos as the Commoner, Lionel, treats Albert as an equal & in fact often oversteps the boundaries of the Class System.
Lionel perseveres with his unorthodox but proven methods. His techniques prove to Albert that he can speak as long as he is listening to music, singing it or is annoyed. He employs all three methods much to Albert’s chagrin.
In the movie this results in Albert storming off from Lionel in front of Saint James palace. This scene is probably also historically inaccurate. Both men, being stubborn & obdurate, resist apologizing to the other.
King Edward VIII’s surprise abdication to marry an American divorcee, Wallace Simpson, thrusts Albert in as King George VI.
In utter fear, Albert relents. He accedes that Lionel can assist him at the coronation. Lionel, in turn, has had time to reflect on their spat outside the palace. He graciously reciprocates & apologizes to Albert.
What really cements their blossoming friendship is a pivotal speech to the British people at the commencement of WW2. Lionel guides the recently coroneted King through the speech. Much to everybody’s surprise, the pauses where Bertie grapples to enunciate a word actually enhance the speech’s quality giving it a magical property.
By a dint of hard work, King George VI has overcome his stammer. He has tamed a life-long paralyzing affliction through the love & dedication of a Commoner, Lionel Logue.
This would transmogrify into a life-long friendship.
There are a number of historical inaccuracies which all period movies seem to engender. One such factual error is that Winston Churchill is shown as being a friend of Bertie before his ascension to the throne whereas he never really knew him. Furthermore it is doubtful whether the scene of Albert storming away in anguish from Lionel outside St. James Palace actually occurred.
In less capable hands, this movie could have been dull & lifeless. Instead with its brisk pace it maintains one’s interest. The vivid but not overbearing evocation of the trauma experienced by the introverted, Prince Albert, add vitality to the drama. One can relate to the debilitating impediment as if it is one’s own.
This movie richly deserves the plaudits that it received. None of the usual dramatic effects are employed such as countless murder or innumerable car chases, yet it is equally engaging even though I knew the eventual outcome.
This movie is highly recommended.