A few days ago I saw the film THE KING'S SPEECH. It is wonderful: human, moving, well-paced. I mention the latter specifically because it is about a speech impediment, that belonging to King George VI, and as such must include the long, painful pauses that so distressed him as a radio speaker, but without putting the audience for the movie to sleep. How much silence and delayed speech is too much? Not enough? The movie gets it just right.
George VI ("Bertie" to his family and, reluctantly, to his speech therapist, marvelously played by Geoffrey Rush) did not want to be king. But his older brother abdicated in order to marry American divorcee Wallis Simpson, and so Bertie was stuck. He must lead his country into World War II, which means radio addresses, where he is competing with Hitler. "I don't know what he's saying," Bertie says as Hitler rants in a news reel, "but he's saying it rather well."
So is the screen writer, David Seidler, who himself stammered as a boy. His parents pointed to George VI as a person who overcame his stutter, "so you can too." Seidler, inspired by the king, did so. Talk about making a personal movie!
All the actors are terrific, and both Colin Firth, as the beleaguered king, and Rush are getting Oscar buzz.
An interesting sidelight: The speech therapist's son, now an elderly man, possessed all of his father's notes on treating George VI. Seidler naturally wanted access to them. The son, very old-school British, said he would give Seidler access only with the permission of the widowed Queen Elizabeth, George's wife ("the queen mum.") She said not in her lifetime, since these were "still painful memories for me." Seidel agreed to wait. Thirty years later, she died at age 101 and he began to write his movie.
There is a lesson here for all us writers: A project gets written when it can be, and not before. Someone (Mike Flynn, who was it? You know everything) said that a novelist needs patience and cunning. And so, apparently, does a screen writer.
Go see this movie. My entire extended family, a collection of as disparate individuals as you will find anywhere, all liked it. Even my nephew Danny, who usually only likes movies in which things blow up. But not this time.