Imagine you're second in line for the throne of England, right behind your selfish, womanizing brother, your father the King is in ill health, and you have a terrible stutter that you just can't control. Your father despises you for the impediment, your siblings tease you about it, your country is poised to enter World War II and that older brother desires to marry an American divorcee. Except the King of England can't marry a divorced woman, meaning you're next in line for the throne.
The King's Speech is a powerful and beautifully produced film about the challenge that the Duke of York faced when he was pushed into the public eye, with the role acted perfectly by Colin Firth. The film opens with the Duke addressing the public, painfully stumbling through his written speech, one stutter and pause after another, a scene that's surprisingly affecting, with us feeling the overwhelming anxiety of the moment and frustration of the call of duty to the nation and the honor of family.
Fortunately for history, his faithful wife Elizabeth (Helena Bonham Carter) finds the unorthodox Australian Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush) and convinces her husband to work with him to try and cure the stutter. Masquerading as "Mr. Johnson" for his visits to Logue's run-down Harley Street office, Firth perfectly portrays the conflict between the desire to get better, the anger and frustration at having the affliction and the embarrassment of having a disability.
Truly great films manage to instantly transport us to a world where there's complete suspension of disbelief, where we wonder if we're seeing actual historical footage rather than actors on sets with lighting, caterers and extras just off-camera. The King's Speech is a splendid film that is well deserving of the awards and accolades it's received, even as the speech therapy itself is rather blithely addressed. It's one of my favorite films of 2010.