THE QUEEN (2006) and THE YOUNG VICTORIA (2008).
THE KING'S SPEECH depicts the true story of England's King George VI (Colin Firth) -- father of the present Queen -- who is unexpectedly thrust onto the throne when his brother (Guy Pearce) abdicates. The abdication crisis is soon followed by England's entry into World War II, and it is critical that the new king overcome his lifelong stammer so that he can speak to the British people as he leads the nation during a perilous time in history.
Geoffrey Rush plays Lionel Logue, an unorthodox speech therapist who worked with the king for years and aided him in preparing to give his wartime speeches. Fans of the classic Firth-Ehle version of PRIDE AND PREJUDICE (1995) will enjoy seeing Jennifer Ehle playing Logue's wife, Myrtle.
Much of the film feels like a three-character play between the king, his supportive wife Elizabeth (Helena Bonham-Carter), and Logue. All three actors are excellent, particularly Firth and Bonham-Carter. Firth is simply superb as "Bertie," who grew up in an emotionally distant family but has created his own happy family life with his wife and two daughters; though initially reluctant to be king, he is determined to succeed. Bonham-Carter captures both Elizabeth's love for her husband and her regal steeliness, particularly in a scene where she refuses to be welcomed to a party by Wallis Simpson (Eve Best).
There are many more interesting actors who surface periodically, including Michael Gambon and Claire Bloom as King George V and Queen Mary; Anthony Andrews as Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin; Derek Jacobi as Archbishop Lang; and Timothy Spall as Winston Churchill.
Although I enjoyed the film very much, I felt at a bit of an emotional distance from it. Fact after fact presented in the film was correct, yet I found one part of my brain analyzing how much of the emoting was dramatic license and what might have actually been real. It's interesting I didn't have the same reaction to THE YOUNG VICTORIA, in particular; I'm not certain why I responded differently to the two films.
I also wished the film had delved a bit more deeply into wartime Britain. The film ends just as the war begins, so the audience isn't shown more of the royal family's leadership during the London Blitz. The film's languorous pacing might have been speeded up a bit in spots to allow for a few more minutes to complete the story.
Those minor quibbles aside, this is a very good film which is definitely worth seeing. Firth, in particular, gives a performance which is worthy of an Oscar nomination.
The film is rated R for swearing in a couple of sequences where Logue tries to help the emotionally repressed Bertie express himself. In the context of the story it makes sense, and it's as inoffensive as the use of such words can be. Otherwise the film is family friendly, excepting a brief, fairly oblique conversation between the Duchess of York and Winston Churchill about Wallis Simpson's hold on Edward VIII.
THE KING'S SPEECH was directed by Tom Hooper. It runs 118 minutes.