Toronto Review: Tom Hooper's Exceptional 'The King's Speech'

September 20, 2010

The King's Speech

What an exhilarating way to end the festival! My last film of TIFF 2010 was the recently crowned Audience Award winner The King's Speech from director Tom Hooper and damn does it ever deserve that award. I had no clue what to expect going in, and was a bit nervous, but it's one of those wonderful films that in the first few minutes already had me thinking to myself "I'm going to love this." And indeed I did, and that says a lot, as a period piece drama is not usually something I go for. I'm going to make a bold statement - I think The King's Speech is on par with Darren Aronofsky's Black Swan as one of the very best movies of the year.

So what is it about (a question I get asked a lot)? Colin Firth plays England's King George VI, with Helena Bonham Carter as his wife, although at the time he was only the Duke of York, otherwise known as "Bertie" by his family. It's set during the mid-1930s as England is on the brink of war with Nazi Germany. Bertie has a speech impediment and can't speak in public, or to almost anyone at all, without stammering and freezing up. So he is taken to Dr. Lionel Logue (played by Geoffrey Rush), an Australian speech therapist who helps him overcome this problem in order to, eventually, deliver a very important speech to the British Empire once they do decide to declare war. It's lightly comical in spots, but mostly a superbly crafted period drama.

The King's Speech is not just about the early beginnings of England's entrance in the war; it's not just about George overcoming his speech impediment in order to unite a nation; it's not just about society and life and the monarchy in England; it's not just about the importance of friendship; it's about all of that and so much more. I have never seen a film so beautiful, so elegant, so completely entertaining, so amusing, so riveting, it's unlike anything, yet every scene is a joy to watch. Firth gives the performance of his life-time, and I honestly believe he is going to get the Oscar next year - he damn well deserves one, that's for sure. I even thought Bonham Carter was better than I've seen her in years, and Rush gives a hell of a performance, too.

There is so much I could talk about because I loved every last aspect of The King's Speech - David Seidler's fantastic screenplay, Alexandre Desplat's wonderful score, Tom Hooper's great direction, the unbelievably brilliant scenes of dialogue between Firth and Rush. But one area that I must address is Danny Cohen's cinematography. The way he composes his shots is phenomenal, every last scene is beautiful. There were times, even in the middle of scenes full of dialogue, where I would be sitting in awe, gaping at how stunning such simple shots looked. This is art, not just cinema. He doesn't frame everyone in the middle or even just to one side or another, he uses the colors, the atmosphere, the sets, every detail on the walls and everything around them to bring the entire frame, and subsequently the entire film, to life with a stunning elegance.

It really is not an understatement to say that The King's Speech might be the movie of the year. Everyone else is saying it and I can now join in agreement and praise this fantastic work of art, too. It's certainly going to win some Oscars next year as well. Firth is unquestionably getting it, possibly Seidler for his script, and I would honestly be happy if it won Best Picture - it's that good and it deserves it. After seeing this, the Oscar race has become so much more exciting, because in my opinion Black Swan and The King's Speech are now running neck-and-neck. Anyone who appreciates, admires, and/or enjoys great cinema must see this film.

Alex's Toronto Rating: 10 out of 10

Find more posts: Review, TIFF 10



So where does Inception come into the equation? It seem's like it's fall down the list as the movie of the year. It's almost as if it gets no talk in all the very early pre -oscar nomination talk that a read of. TDK did great in technical category (nominations) and I think Inception will do the same and more (Direction/ Best Film for sure IMO!) With that said I can't wait to see Black Swan and The King's Speech has just been added to my very long list of films to see this fall! Thanks for the review.

Day on Sep 20, 2010


thanks for the info alex - i love colin firth and geoffrey rush..............period films as well! i can't wait to see this!!

beavis on Sep 20, 2010


Thanks for the review- I'm quite excited to see this, Black Swan, the Social Network, Submarine... the list goes on. I'm glad we get to live film festivals at least vicariously 🙂 On that note, does anyone know of a customizable service/software for movie release dates? I just signed up for "album reminder", a similar service for music. It'd be cool if you could input certain directors, actors, or screenwriters and get a reminder when a project of theirs is finally at a theater near you, or being released on dvd. I'd want be able to include specific films as well- often I read these reviews from film festivals and get super excited, but the film might not even have a distribution deal yet and it could be months before it gets anywhere near me, and then only in limited release and only playing an hour or two away from me=, as I live in what we fondly call the middle of nowhere. And then I end up missing it, because I don't have the time to constantly check the schedules of alllll the small art house theaters in the region. So far I've been "saving' these titles on netflix, just so I have an easily accessible list and so if worse comes to worst, I'll catch them when they eventually make it out on dvd. I also usually star the reviews/trailers that catch my eye on firstshowing (I read this through googlereader); and from time to time I look over my 'starred' list to see if I've forgotten some gems. Anyone know of some sweet software like this, or have any tips? Thanks!

Cheryl on Sep 20, 2010


i dont know. I think period pieces have been overdone. While, the film may be great as you say, I think british period pieces are so oversaturated, that the Academy simply will not award the film for any prize, even if it may deserve any. Franco or Bardem will get the best actor prize.

talli on Sep 20, 2010


My anticipation for this movie has now reached sky-high levels. Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush, can they do no wrong? Thanks for the review!

Jennie on Sep 20, 2010


I've seen the movie and I agree with Alex, it's quite good

Boxoffice Marco on Sep 20, 2010


Mr Billington, I wish you bloody Americans would take the time to learn history. Englands monarchy? Englands entry into the war? Englands King George VI? I would have though since you wrote The BRITISH Empire that would be a clue, but alas. As a Scot I take great offence at these remarks. There has not been a king or queen of England since 1603, since the union of the crowns, when the King of Scotland became the first British King and in 1706 the Act of Union came into being creating Great Britain and Northern Ireland. So when you mention England fought the war this is a n insult to all the Scots Welsh Northern Irish who served and died. By the way we had to wait a few more years till the USA got involved and not by declaring war on Germany but Japan.

macatae on Sep 20, 2010


#6 - he's only giving an overview of a movie - nothing more................just relax.

beavis on Sep 20, 2010


Saw it at TIFF....loved IT! Colin WILL win the Oscar this for picture...not sure.

John A. on Sep 24, 2010


Saw it in Toronto - " Best picture ever!" Fantastic close-ups make you feel like you are in the same room. This is a superb film. You will recognize many actors from Masterpiece Theatre series of the past.

Colin Fan on Oct 2, 2010


I'm crazy to see this movie!

Karina on Oct 15, 2010


Dear Mr. Billington, What a FANTASTICALLY written review! I haven't even seen the movie yet, but can I just say job well done on this article. 🙂 Awesome writing! Keep up the good work! Sincerely, Dana

Dana on Jan 30, 2011


A warm and compelling drama filled with humanity and the happy knack for being moving and funny at the same time.

Micheal@Tickets For Sale on Mar 5, 2011

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