If I am King, where is my power? Can I declare war? Form a government? Levy a tax? No! And yet I am the seat of all authority because they think that when I speak, I speak for them. But I can't speak.
The tagline for The King's Speech is "It takes leadership to confront a nation's fear. It takes friendship to conquer your own." The friendship referred to, is the relationship between Albert and Lionel Logue, his speech therapist. While Albert must lead a nation as they face the threat of war, Logue is tasked with helping Albert overcome his disabling fears. Through hours of unusual speech exercises, Albert and Logue develop an unlikely friendship that ultimately turns a stammering Duke into a King. In one particularly rich scene, Albert pays Logue an unscheduled visit. While Albert works on a model plane, a simple joy of childhood that he was denied, he slowly reveals a truth about his past involving an abusive nanny. First he feigns laughter and indifference to the memory. As Logue gently prods, Albert's wound becomes harder for him to hide, and it is clear that these moments with Logue are a rare instance of safety to Albert. And in Albert, Logue finds the validation and accomplishment that affirms his work.
The friendship between Albert and Logue is incontestably the center point of The King's Speech. This carefully constructed and powerfully executed theme of the story is sold by its sterling performances. While too much good cannot be said of Colin Firth's incredible performance, the movie is equally carried by the extraordinary skills of Geoffrey Rush-- a man whose talent, like Firth come to think of it, has been consistently and unjustly overlooked time and time again. Here, Rush impressively flexes his dramatic, emotional, and even comic skills. Rush is artless in his craft, effortlessly gliding from a tender scene with his sons to moments of laughter, such as provoking Albert into a profane rant.
As a character, Logue's sarcastic and sometimes irreverent manner is a stark contrast to Albert's aristocratic and traditional airs. He brings a rare combination of comedy and tension to what otherwise would be a bland docudrama, sometimes delivering a laugh, and other times ruthlessly assaulting Albert's defenses and challenging his authority with actions bordering on treachery. In a later scene of the movie while Albert paces and rants about what he sees as a deception by Logue, he turns to see Logue slouched unceremoniously upon the coronation throne. Albert is infuriated, but Logue sits unflinchingly, asking why he should listen to him at all until Albert declares passionately and lividly "Because I have a voice!" Logue replies calmly and simply "Yes, you do." It is a moment of soaring emotion and gorgeous intensity, performed immaculately and flawlessly.
England through the eyes of The King's Speech is dreary, foggy, and wet. Even Buckingham Palace seems like little more than a relic in need of repainting. The beams of light shining through the palace windows illuminate the dust that floats through the air of the regal residence. Logue's office is made up of stained and mismatched furniture set on uneven floorboards and pushed against peeling wallpaper. The King's Speech is not a period drama that makes the early decades of the 1900's look fine and sparkly, but rather, shows in its mere imagery a shift in the times. While the royal family grapples with the publicity nightmare of David's open affair, they struggle to save face. But like Buckingham Palace itself, the monarchy is an old relic that lacks the luster and grandeur of former years.