I watched this film because I’d started the Netflix series “The Crown”, about Queen Elizabeth II in her youth, and wanted more background on King George VI. I knew little else about the film besides its subject matter, and that it performed very well in my home country of Australia. I’ve very little knowledge of its critical acclaim, or the Oscar politics around it, so I’m not coming at it with any thoughts on all that, just thoughts on the movie itself.
The movie itself, I really enjoyed! I’ve found director Tom Hooper a tad saccharine at times, but I thought he kept things low-stakes and character-focused here to such an extent that nothing felt exploitative or cloyingly emotional. Geoffrey Rush and Colin Firth were absolutely fantastic, delivering truly excellent performances.
The film succeeds so well because it keeps things so singularly focused; there’s no needless side plots or divergences into other areas of interest in the time period it covers. Everything is solely squared on King George’s speech ailment, and the relationship between he and Lionel Logue. It would have been very easy to deliver a more traditional bio-pic including more traditional patriotism, focus on the war, pandering hints to the future of Britain and that sort of thing, but Hooper keeps things very focused, and the film is so much stronger for it. The ending of the film would have been easy to go over-the-top with and turn into a completely resounding triumph, but Hooper keeps it dipped in realism too – things aren’t perfect, but they are better.
Like Hooper’s “Les Misérables” adaption, the cinematography here is quite claustrophobic. There are few wide shots, things tend to stay close to the frame, characters are blocked sometimes in uncomfortable ways. Unlike Hooper’s “Les Misérables” adaption, it all works to great effect here. It really gets across King George’s own feelings of anxiety, entrapment, emasculation, and the like. It’s great to see the visuals of the film so immersively put one in the shoes of the protagonist, to make them feel some measure of what King George did.
It’s not a revolutionary film by any means, but it’s a very enjoyable one. I give it three and a half marbles, and a record free of charge.