by Melinda Darlington-Bach

Part 1

Colin Firth and Helena Bonham Carter in The King's SpeechGenerally speaking, as a culture, the rare glimpse into the private lives and flaws of the British Monarchy provide the common man an insight into their rarified world. We have an insatiable curiosity on the everyday activities and customs that take place behind the palace walls. The lush, opening night film at the Mill Valley Film Festival/2010 at the Christopher B. Smith Rafael Film Center, "The King's Speech" allows us to be privy to this world. The film reveals in true story, a very special and complicated deep relationship.

The film is the story of George IV, played so beautifully by Colin Firth, and his difficult struggle to overcome his stammer prior to his ascent to the throne of England. We meet his highly unconventional teacher, Academy award winner Geoffrey Rush as Lionel Logue whose efforts as the tutor are challenged and dismissed early on by Prince Albert, the Duke of York.

What emerges on the screen is a tale of brotherly competition between Edward VIII, whose abdication of the throne (due to his marriage to Wallis Simpson), paralyzes and frightens Albert even further. The film also gives the audience a heartfelt look at the deep love between the Duke and Duchess (the future Queen Mother) and their children, Elizabeth and Margaret.

The story unfolds from the diaries and letters from Logue, found by his grandson, Mark. Originally presented to the young talented director, Tom Hooper in play form, the concept was greeted with lukewarm reception. As "The King's Speech" became a feature film with a screenplay written by David Seidler, incorporating an amazing array of high level talent attached such as, Dekek Jacoby, Helena Bonham Carter, Claire Bloom, Colin Firth and Rush, the result is a myriad of potential Oscar candidates.

This fact-based drama on the surface is about the struggle to overcome the Duke of York's crippling handicap, but the significant arc is how the relationship was forged between the unlikely duo. Logue cared so deeply about helping the Duke and his methods, though unconventional at best, truly cemented their life-long deep friendship. Firth so wonderfully executes the utter frustration with his disability and in so many scenes, we also see the kind and gentle nature of the future King. As with any period drama worth it's salt, the recreated palace sets are magnificent as is the attention to detail in the stunning costumes.

Right out of the gate, this film was garnered the audience award from the prestigious Toronto Film Festival and it will be just one of many more to follow. Last years' winner in Toronto was "Precious" directed by Lee Daniels, which coincidentally also opened the Mill Valley Film Festival, 2009. Mark Fishkin, Executive Director and Founder of the California Film Institute and his incredibly hard working staff have done it again.

~ Marin Arts Magazine, October 2010