The King's Speech (2010)

Starring: Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush, Helena Bonham Carter, Timothy Spall, Derek Jacobi, Guy Pearce, Michael Gambon, Jennifer Ehle, Claire Bloom, Eve Best, Freya Wilson, Ramona Marquez

Directed by: Tom Hooper

Rating: 1 2 3 4 and a half

Colin Firth as Bertie in The King's Speech

Whoop whoop, go the Brits: The King's Speech has swept the board at the Oscars, including the Best Actor gong for good old Colin Firth.

Here, Firth takes his usual repressed, inarticulate English gent to its logical conclusion as the stammering, reticent monarch King George VI. Thrust onto the throne when his dashing elder brother, Edward VIII (Guy Pearce, in a masterstroke of casting) abdicates for love of the American divorcee Wallis Simpson. Bertie (as he's known to his family) has the heart and guts to be a great king – not to mention a loving and supportive queen at his side, Elizabeth (Helena Bonham Carter). What he lacks is the voice.

Our story begins when, as Duke of York, he's forced by his irascible, impatient father George V (Michael Gambon) to make a speech at Wembley – a disastrous, excruciatingly hesitant, stuttered mess that, worse, is broadcast live to the nation.

For the 1930s saw a shift in the role of royalty. As the old king puts it testily, gone are the days when all a ruler needs to do is stay on his horse: in these new technological times, he must be a public voice for the people, an entertainer, even. As the cameras flash on the monarch's doorstep, the beginning of the end of privacy is nigh.

Geoffrey Rush as Lionel Logue

In preparation for his unwanted role in the spotlight, Bertie has tried every speech therapist in the book. But his practical, resourceful wife finds one who isn't listed: an unconventional Aussie named Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush, also brilliant), whose methods are dynamic, daring and utterly uncompromising. With typical colonial disregard for etiquette, Lionel refuses to kowtow to his new regal client, and gradually an unlikely friendship blossoms between teacher and student, commoner and king.

Part (somewhat selective) royal history, part touching study of a friendship, The King's Speech represents the quintessence of British film-making, encompassing everything foreigners love about our country: the royal family, stiff upper lips, London pea-soupers and the spirit of the Blitz, it's all there. The life portrayed seems a million miles away from the modern world, and yet the presence of our reigning Queen as a young girl also speaks of deep-rooted, enduring traditions which, love 'em or loathe 'em, are still very much part of British life today.

Helena Bonham Carter as Queen Elizabeth in The King's Speech

And, yes, Colin Firth's portrayal is utterly masterful: angry, fearful, stubborn, trapped, quick-tempered and utterly dedicated to duty, he really brings the king to life. If nothing else, the man deserves and Oscar for making us feel sorry for the most privileged man in the country. Better yet, he's supported by a cast who seem born to play the roles they inhabit, from Helena Bonham Carter's stalwart Queen Mother to Timothy Spall's jowly, pitch-perfect Churchill and even Outnumbered's little Ramona Marquez as a cheeky Princess Margaret. (In fact, the only miscast characters are the lovely corgis, who are far too fluffy and beautiful to play the young Queen's gangly mutts.)

All in all, The King's Speech is beautiful, moving and surprisingly gripping – who knew waiting for a bloke to make a speech could be so nerve-wracking? Worthy of best film and best director? My jury's still out, but this is still a lovely, lovely film, as good as everyone says it is. Go Britain, go Colin, and go me to listen to some Elgar…

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