07 February 2011

The King's Speech

This particular blog post is about The King's Speech. If you don't want to be spoiled because you're planning on seeing it, then don't read. If you want to be convinced to go see it because that "R" rating scares you, then keep reading. If you think I'm a sinner for seeing a movie that's rated "R", then that's fine. I'll get over it.

Every so often a movie comes along that lives up to the hype surrounding it. It's a pretty rare thing - usually someone talks up a movie to the point where I think: "Yeah. Right. There's no way." Not that I don't love it when I'm wrong, but I do tend to go in cynically when I get recommendations from people that I don't trust.

Fortunately, I went into The King's Speech with almost nothing except the bare basics of information on the plot: King George VI getting over his stutter and - as far as the title told me - so he can give a speech. Pretty straightforward.

What I didn't quite expect was a film that would so gracefully and powerfully touch me and relate to me, and, I think, to anyone with any sense of self reflection that sees it. Let me explain:

1. George (AKA Bertie - Colin Firth) is an immediately sympathetic character. The opening scene involves an address at Wembley Stadium where a very loud speaker echos ever halt and sputter he makes to the entire crowd and all those listening on the radio. It would be bad enough if he was just afraid of crowds and got nervous - but the stutter went much deeper than that. As the plot goes on, you see pressure from his father, the teasing of his brother, his abusive nanny, his own lack of confidence. You see that he's been struggling to speak for himself since he was young. He's tried everything he (or his wife) could think of but nothing has worked. He finds a therapist, he learns, he gets better, but he's never quite perfect. The climax of the film is his address to the country after war is declared, and even that speech involves a battle for each and every word. There isn't a miraculous recovery. He doesn't suddenly sound perfect. In fact, the movie tells you that he always needed the help of his therapist for the speeches he gave throughout the war. His weakness became a strength, but strength doesn't necessarily mean that something is easy.

This was something that I so related to. So often I've felt like my entire life I will be battling against certain parts of myself that are not in any way easy to get over. Not that I'm denying the power that God has to make weaknesses into strengths - what I am saying is that there is nothing in scripture that says strengths are easy or that we won't have to continually work to keep a strength strong. There is nothing in the world that I know of that, with abandonment, stays just as easy for a person. That's just not how life works. I appreciated that reminder that I am not a failure if I am in process.

2. There's a moment where Bertie gives his therapist a shilling by way of inside-joke apology. He looks at the coin and tells his therapist that his father is still watching him. The therapist looks back and tells him that he doesn't have to carry his father around in his pocket.

This line hit me right over the head. There is a person in my life right now that is bound and determined to make my life miserable. Now that I've stepped back from the situation a bit I can recognize the signs of emotional abuse in what this person is doing to me, but the situation is one that makes it difficult for me to completely escape it. What's more, I've been asking myself over and over again: How can you be charitable and Christlike to a person that you need to break contact with? I don't have the answer yet - but in the mean time I've appreciated the reminder that I don't have to carry this person around with me everywhere I go either. I can put the metaphorical coin away and move on with life.

Now, as for the film's rating: to be honest, if I hadn't known it was R, I would have thought it was a soft PG for the first 3/4ths of the movie. There is one short scene and half of another scene where Bertie's character does swear quite a bit, but it isn't crude or crass swearing and it's all over rather quickly. If you don't want to deal even with 30 seconds or so of swearing, then it will be an easy enough movie to edit later on because there is literally no other instance of swearing or sex or anything else at all in the rest of the film that should cause problems. If you can handle it (it's actually a rather funny scene), then go. Just do. It was divine.

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