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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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Andrew Kim Taegon, Paul Chong Hasang and Companions: This first native Korean priest was the son of Korean converts. His father, Ignatius Kim, was martyred during the persecution of 1839 and was beatified in 1925. After Baptism at the age of 15, Andrew traveled 1,300 miles to the seminary in Macao, China. After six years he managed to return to his country through Manchuria. That same year he crossed the Yellow Sea to Shanghai and was ordained a priest. Back home again, he was assigned to arrange for more missionaries to enter by a water route that would elude the border patrol. He was arrested, tortured and finally beheaded at the Han River near Seoul, the capital. Paul Chong Hasang was a lay apostle and married man, aged 45. 
<p>Christianity came to Korea during the Japanese invasion in 1592 when some Koreans were baptized, probably by Christian Japanese soldiers. Evangelization was difficult because Korea refused all contact with the outside world except for bringing taxes to Beijing annually. On one of these occasions, around 1777, Christian literature obtained from Jesuits in China led educated Korean Christians to study. A home Church began. When a Chinese priest managed to enter secretly a dozen years later, he found 4,000 Catholics, none of whom had ever seen a priest. Seven years later there were 10,000 Catholics. Religious freedom came in 1883. </p><p>When Pope John Paul II visited Korea in 1984 he canonized, besides Andrew and Paul, 98 Koreans and three French missionaries who had been martyred between 1839 and 1867. Among them were bishops and priests, but for the most part they were lay persons: 47 women, 45 men. </p><p>Among the martyrs in 1839 was Columba Kim, an unmarried woman of 26. She was put in prison, pierced with hot tools and seared with burning coals. She and her sister Agnes were disrobed and kept for two days in a cell with condemned criminals, but were not molested. After Columba complained about the indignity, no more women were subjected to it. The two were beheaded. A boy of 13, Peter Ryou, had his flesh so badly torn that he could pull off pieces and throw them at the judges. He was killed by strangulation. Protase Chong, a 41-year-old noble, apostatized under torture and was freed. Later he came back, confessed his faith and was tortured to death. </p><p>Today, there are almost 5.1 million Catholics in Korea.</p> American Catholic Blog We never think of connecting violence with our tongues. But the first weapon, the most cruel weapon, is the tongue. Examine what part your tongue has played in creating peace or violence. We can really wound a person, we can kill a person, with our tongue.

 
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