The title of this wonderful movie is a double entendre addressing both the serious stutter of King George VI and the world-altering speech he must give declaring England’s war against Hitler. It is a rich film and a compelling story – witty, deep, beautifully acted and directed.
It is also painful to watch. Many of our deepest fears as speakers are poignantly portrayed. The first speech Albert delivers in the film is to a large crowd. We see the soon-to-be King as he prepares to step to the microphone: pale, eyes blank, terrified, and we know before he utters one word, that this speech is going to be every public speaker’s worst nightmare. And it is. The film catches the silent embarrassment, sidelong looks, torturous moments of silence and worst of all, the pity of the crowd. Your heart races for Alfred’s shame and humiliation.
This film is also about finding ourselves in positions we don’t want but must assume, (Albert was forced to the throne when his brother abdicated). It seems clear that had Edward continued his reign, Albert would never have pursued such a desperate measure to find his voice and speak (publicly) for and to the people of the United Kingdom. Facing his greatest vulnerability becomes an extraordinary victory.
I found this movie to be very psychologically engaging. I also experienced such feelings of compassion for speakers and audiences. There is always a sense of high drama when we are before others and the risks we take are both heart breaking and courageous . My favorite line of the movie is by the speech therapist, played by the incomparable Geoffrey Rush. He says to the king as he prepares to broadcast the declaration of war to the entire British Colonies,
” Forget everything else and just say it to me.”
Real words to real people. That’s a motto I can live by. Here is the original speech recording of King George VI on September 3, 1939.