Quick Review: The King’s Speech

The upcoming Oscars seem to be a battle between two films: The Social Network (see my earlier review here and sagescape’s here) and The King’s Speech. I just had a chance to see the second film and have some thoughts about this Best Picture contender.

1. Since this is a historical drama, I expected this film to be somewhat bland and formulaic. It was neither.

2. There is a little bit of a storyline about the gap between British royalty and the common people. In the film, this gap is between King George VI and his speech therapist, an untrained but effective practitioner. The question arises: how can someone rule a country (and empire) if either side has little idea of how the other lives? We could probably ask similar questions today about many of the people at the top of our social hierarchy.

3. The film had more humor, albeit fairly dry, than I was expecting. I don’t know that I would think of Colin Firth as a comic actor but he has some good lines spoken by a struggling character.

4. The context of the film is engaging as Europe inches toward World War II. Even if the timeline in the movie doesn’t quite match the historical record, the struggles of King George VI are heightened by the gathering storm.

5. The peak of the film is a speech by King George VI. Even though it is an important speech delivered at a key historical moment, I appreciated that the musical score and the editing was understated and intimate. Too often, I think films use music and editing as a crutch to cover up less-than-exciting climaxes. Good plots don’t need to be oversold.

6. I thought The Social Network was interesting but not great. In comparison, The King’s Speech is weightier, has better acting, and doesn’t have to rely on edgy dialogue or a current storyline. My vote for the Best Picture (between these two and the other nominees I’ve seen including True Grit, Toy Story 3, and Inception): The King’s Speech.

(Critics also like this film: RottenTomatoes.com says the film is 94% fresh with 188 positive reviews out of 199 total reviews.)

Briefly considering the sociology of stuttering

Responding to a review of the recent movie The King’s Speech, a professor who struggled with stuttering quickly talks about the sociology of stuttering:

As a person who sometimes stutters and as the author of a doctoral dissertation (The Quest for Fluency, University of Toronto, 1977) and a half dozen or so publications on the sociology of stuttering, I was pleased to read the excellent articles by Tom Spears on the film The King’s Speech and on the stuttering management program at the Ottawa Regional Rehabilitation Centre. As scientists and speech therapists have noted, stuttering is a puzzling phenomenon, shaped by neurological and psychosocial factors, for which there is, technically speaking, no cure but which individuals can learn to manage successfully through a variety of strategies to achieve more relaxed, flowing speech. For some individuals, as they cease to struggle and become more comfortable in their own skin, stuttering may even virtually disappear as a problem; for others, neurological and psychosocial propensity may be so obdurate and self-defeating avoidance practices so stubbornly ingrained, that only strictly applied therapeutic speech techniques may provide modest improvements in fluency and comfort.

From this short letter, it sounds like anxiety and stigma can contribute to the issue of stuttering. Like many human concerns, a combination of individual and social factors can lead to challenges.