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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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Bernadette Soubirous: Bernadette Soubirous was born in 1844, the first child of an extremely poor miller in the town of Lourdes in southern France. The family was living in the basement of a dilapidated building when on February 11,1858, the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to Bernadette in a cave above the banks of the Gave River near Lourdes. Bernadette, 14 years old, was known as a virtuous girl though a dull student who had not even made her first Holy Communion. In poor health, she had suffered from asthma from an early age. 
<p>There were 18 appearances in all, the final one occurring on the feast of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, July 16. Although Bernadette's initial reports provoked skepticism, her daily visions of "the Lady" brought great crowds of the curious. The Lady, Bernadette explained, had instructed her to have a chapel built on the spot of the visions. There the people were to come to wash in and drink of the water of the spring that had welled up from the very spot where Bernadette had been instructed to dig. </p><p>According to Bernadette, the Lady of her visions was a girl of 16 or 17 who wore a white robe with a blue sash. Yellow roses covered her feet, a large rosary was on her right arm. In the vision on March 25 she told Bernadette, "I am the Immaculate Conception." It was only when the words were explained to her that Bernadette came to realize who the Lady was. </p><p>Few visions have ever undergone the scrutiny that these appearances of the Immaculate Virgin were subject to. Lourdes became one of the most popular Marian shrines in the world, attracting millions of visitors. Miracles were reported at the shrine and in the waters of the spring. After thorough investigation Church authorities confirmed the authenticity of the apparitions in 1862. </p><p>During her life Bernadette suffered much. She was hounded by the public as well as by civic officials until at last she was protected in a convent of nuns. Five years later she petitioned to enter the Sisters of Notre Dame. After a period of illness she was able to make the journey from Lourdes and enter the novitiate. But within four months of her arrival she was given the last rites of the Church and allowed to profess her vows. She recovered enough to become infirmarian and then sacristan, but chronic health problems persisted. She died on April 16, 1879, at the age of 35. </p><p>She was canonized in 1933.</p> American Catholic Blog In humility, a woman ultimately forgets 
herself; forgets both her shortcomings and accomplishments equally and 
strives to remain empty of self to make room for Jesus, just as Mary 
did.

 
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