It’s something of a cliché, but British film makers excel at period drama in a way that many American directors can only dream about. There is an expected quality that comes with the genre, an understanding about what you are about to watch. The King’s Speech plays upon these understandings, but far more interestingly it decides to change some of them for the better.
For one, the pacing of this is blistering fast. Years of Merchant ivory have brought us to expect a stately pace – however this cracks along at a fair old whip and if anything it feels as if it could do with another ten or so minutes to allow it time to rest (don’t take this as a complaint – it is perfectly paced). It’s rare that I complain that a film is too short these days, but this really would benefit from another five to ten minutes.
There is also a sarcastic humour to the film that is unusual to find in a film like this (usually being reserved for out and out comedies) which usually treat the subject of royalty with a kind of reverence not seen for other institutions. It’s encouraging to see the use of language given such a non dramatic place (it’s very naturalistic in its approach) rather than being used for effect – although given the subject this isn’t that much of a surprise.
Elsewhere there is the usual standard of excellence we expect from this fare – the acting is uniformly excellent, yes, Colin Firth is the standout role but it’s just one of a series of performances in the film (no one feels out of place) and the cinematography is nothing short of gorgeous (it’s unusual to see fish-eye lenses put to such a good effect). Only the score seems to be lacking, but that’s such a minor quibble that it seems out of place.
It’s the common dilemma of whether this needs to be seen in a cinema, on the one hand it could be viewed as the sort of fare that the BBC produces on a regular basis, but given the way the funding of the British Film Industry is going this could be a final hurrah for a while. It does justify the cinema trip if you want to enjoy the collective audience appreciation that it seemed to provoke – it’s rare that a film provokes such a uniform joyous response from the audience.