The King's Speech - Cinema Review

'to imbue a period piece with this much humour, feeling and genuine emotional weight takes talent and craft and The King's Speech has both of those things in spades'

One of the most remarkable things about The King's Speech is just how much fun it is. At a snip under two hours, Tom Hooper's Oscar-baiting drama could be the kind of stuffy period piece that leaves The Academy in raptures and everyone else asleep. The opposite is actually true.

At times Hooper's film verges on whimsical, on more than one occasion it is laugh out loud funny; if you're looking for Oscar-winning comparisons then in recent years the film most similar in tone and mood is Slumdog Millionaire, a film many considered 'too light' to please Oscar.

If you're worried that you're going to pitch up to a screening only to be met with a depressing and formulaic trudge through the pre-Second World War years then fear not; this is a well-rounded drama, a delightful soaring piece that deals with weighty, sometimes difficult, personal issues with a lightness of touch and an appreciation that most sadness is balanced with equal amounts of laughter during any given person's life.

Hooper shoots everything with a modern twist on classic framing. His go-to shot (the 'rule of thirds' close up) is balanced with clever visual takes on King George VI's (Colin Firth) problems. Often, Hooper shoots crowds from the floor, representing how the monarch feels when in a room of people. On other occasions dimensions and proportions are exaggerated - watch how Hooper makes George's pre-Kingly home seem smaller the moment we realise he will be moving out of it and in to Buckingham Palace. Technically the film is a marvel but in-keeping with Hooper's grasp of entertainment it never spirals down into a collection of film school-perfect shots, the director's style - as it should - complimenting David Seidler's brilliant script.

Seidler of course deserves huge credit too. The relationship between George and speech therapist Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush) at the core of the film reflects the overall tone with moments of levity ('does a Prince's brain not know what his mouth is saying?'/'You haven't met many Royal Princes have you?') balanced with believable class divide and personal conflict. That a third character (Helena Bonham Carter's Queen Elizabeth) is introduced to this relationship so successfully is further testament to Seidler's superb character crafting.

In terms of problems, The King's Speech is not completely fault free. Putting Winston Churchill on screen is difficult and Timothy Spall's portrayal unfortunately fails to escape caricature, his screen time wisely kept to a minimum by Hooper. The need for a human antagonist too is obviously something Seidler wrestled with, settling in the end on Derek Jacobi's Archbishop who feels under-developed and on occasion, completely redundant.

At no point though are those small miss-steps ever enough to threaten the enjoyment of a film which is already one of the year's best. To imbue a period piece with this much humour, feeling and genuine emotional weight takes talent and craft and The King's Speech has both of those things in spades.

The King's Speech is in UK cinemas from Friday 7th January.

Look further...

'a singularly refreshing film that doesn't rely on big ideas or flashy style, but rather good, old-fashioned storytelling and acting' - The Entertainment Junkie


  1. Great review, this made me way more excited about seeing it. I haven't really read stuff about The King's Speech so wasn't sure what kind of tone they took. Seems really interesting.

    I enjoy the blog very much.

  2. Well, thank you kindly, those comments are really appreciated and having started following Split Reel a while ago I'm looking forward to reading more of your own stuff.

    THE KING'S SPEECH is excellent and really hope you end up enjoying it!

  3. Great review. You know that I wanted to see it. Great to know that they made the film with humor. Anyway, the trailer already told us that it looks fun.

  4. Definitely although, I'd even say the film surpasses the expectations the trailer gives you. I'm sure you'll love it when you do get to see it!

  5. The relationship between teacher and monarch is what really makes the film worth seeing.

  6. Yes completely agree that that is placed at the core of the film - very successfully. There's lots more great stuff but it wouldn't work without that relationship operating as it does.