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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

The King's Speech

By
John Mulderig
Source: Catholic News Service


Colin Firth is the Oscar frontrunner for his performance in "The King's Speech."
Did an obscure London speech therapist contribute—indirectly but significantly—to Britain's victory in World War II? The stirring historical drama "The King's Speech" (Weinstein) certainly suggests he did.

With its opening scenes set in the 1920s and '30s, this is the story of the unlikely but fruitful relationship between Albert, Duke of York (Colin Firth)—initially second in line to the British crown—and little-known, but abundantly eccentric elocutionist Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush).

Logue's peculiarities come to the fore when Albert—at the instigation of his loyal wife Elizabeth (Helena Bonham Carter)—reluctantly places himself in Logue's care, hoping to overcome the stammer that hobbles his public speaking, an indispensible aspect of his life and career as a member of the royal family.

Defying protocol, the Australian-born Logue insists that he and the prince call each other by their first names, forbids his patient to smoke during their sessions and refuses to treat his august client anywhere but in his own office, a space carefully arranged to promote relaxation. All the while, Logue works to break through the rigid shell of Albert's reserve.

As he gradually does so, and as the two bond, the unflappable Logue discovers—and eventually helps to heal—the emotionally crippling childhood wounds underlying Albert's impediment. Outside events, meanwhile, combine to make Logue's task all the more urgent.

The death of Albert's father, King George V (Michael Gambon), leads to his elder brother David's (Guy Pearce) accession as Edward VIII. But David's hopeless infatuation with twice-divorced American socialite Wallis Simpson (Eve Best) swiftly forces the new sovereign to choose between the throne and—as he famously put it—"the woman I love."

As Albert unwillingly prepares to fill the void, a second worldwide conflagration looms. So too, with the ever-increasing influence of radio and newsreels, does the challenge of establishing a morale-boosting verbal relationship between the tongue-tied king and his millions of subjects throughout the commonwealth.

Weaving into their main narrative of therapeutic, behind-the-scenes friendship, the more familiar tale of one of the modern era's most successful royal marriages, screenwriter David Seidler and director Tom Hooper create a luminous tapestry reinforced by finely spun performances and marred only by the loose threads of some offensive language.

Though played for humor, within the context of Logue's efforts to get Albert to unwind in front of him, these fleeting torrents of meaningless swearing prevent endorsement for teen viewers who might otherwise profit greatly from this touching and uplifting profile in compassion, determination and dedication to public service.

The film contains two brief but intense outbursts of vulgarity, a couple of uses of profanity, a few crass terms and a mildly irreverent joke. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III—adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R—restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

*****
John Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.



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Ansgar: The “apostle of the north” (Scandinavia) had enough frustrations to become a saint—and he did. He became a Benedictine at Corbie, France, where he had been educated. Three years later, when the king of Denmark became a convert, Ansgar went to that country for three years of missionary work, without noticeable success. Sweden asked for Christian missionaries, and he went there, suffering capture by pirates and other hardships on the way. Fewer than two years later, he was recalled, to become abbot of New Corbie (Corvey) and bishop of Hamburg. The pope made him legate for the Scandinavian missions. Funds for the northern apostolate stopped with Emperor Louis’s death. After 13 years’ work in Hamburg, Ansgar saw it burned to the ground by invading Northmen; Sweden and Denmark returned to paganism. 
<p>He directed new apostolic activities in the North, traveling to Denmark and being instrumental in the conversion of another king. By the strange device of casting lots, the king of Sweden allowed the Christian missionaries to return. </p><p>Ansgar’s biographers remark that he was an extraordinary preacher, a humble and ascetical priest. He was devoted to the poor and the sick, imitating the Lord in washing their feet and waiting on them at table. He died peacefully at Bremen, Germany, without achieving his wish to be a martyr. </p><p>Sweden became pagan again after his death, and remained so until the coming of missionaries two centuries later.</p> American Catholic Blog Every vocation is a vocation to sacrifice and to joy. It is a call to the knowledge of God, to the recognition of God as our Father, to joy in the understanding of His mercy.

 
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