After the death of his father King George V (Michael Gambon) and the scandalous abdication of King Edward VIII (Guy Pearce), Bertie (Colin Firth) who has suffered from a debilitating speech impediment all his life, is suddenly crowned King George VI of England. With his country on the brink of war and in desperate need of a leader, his wife, Elizabeth (Helena Bonham Carter), the future Queen Mother, arranges for her husband to see an eccentric speech therapist, Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush). After a rough start, the two delve into an unorthodox course of treatment and eventually form an unbreakable bond. With the support of Logue, his family, his government and Winston Churchill (Timothy Spall), the King will overcome his stammer and deliver a radio-address that inspires his people and unites them in battle. (The King’s Speech .)
In my first attempt at public speaking, I was so nervous that saliva flooded my mouth and I couldn’t get the words out. I eventually managed to say a few sentences, but I couldn’t continue. I sat down to the howls of derision from the audience. I was twelve years old. My form teacher, Michael Quah, who had put me up to speak to begin with, encouraged me and worked with me and I slowly grew in confidence and competence in public speaking. Today, preaching and teaching is a large part of my life. But I never forgot my embarrassing maiden attempt. Or the part that my mentor and teacher, and now my friend, played in helping me find my voice. I have long realised that we need the help of friends to overcome our weaknesses, and to find our voices, so that we can be freed to be who we were meant to be and therefore freed to make our unique contribution to the world.
You can understand why Bernice and I enjoyed the movie The King’s Speech, and were so glad that it won best picture at the 2011 Academy Awards. (Some of our sons preferred The Social Network. Must be a generational thing.) A good movie should be well crafted but should also inspire you to be a better person. The King’s Speech qualifies on both counts. It also helps if the story has a happy ending. The end of the movie saw King George VI successfully making the first of many war time speeches that helped rally his people in World War 2. Here is the exchange where the King acknowledges the help of his speech therapist:
Your first war time speech.
Expect I shall have to do a great deal more. Thank you, Logue.
Bertie stands and takes Lionel’s hand.
Well done…my friend.
Thank you… Your Majesty.
All friendships will be tested. Here is the scene where Logue pushes too hard in his attempt to help Bertie and ends up jeopardising their relationship.
Lionel reaches out and gives Bertie a pat of comfort on the shoulder. Bertie pulls back in offended shock.
Don’t take liberties! That’s bordering on treason.
I’m just saying you could be King.
You could do it!
That is treason!
They face each other, as though in combat.
I’m trying to get you to realise you need not be governed by fear.
I’ve had enough of this!
What’re you afraid of?
Your poisonous words!
Why’d you show up then? To take polite elocution lessons so you can chit-chat at posh tea parties?
Don’t instruct me on my duties! I’m the brother of a King…the son of a King…we have a history that goes back untold centuries. You’re the disappointing son of a brewer! A jumped-up jackeroo from the outback! You’re a monster, Logue. These sessions are over!
Bertie strides off in a fury. Lionel, equally angry, goes in the other direction. Two men moving apart in the cold wintery landscape, the ground mist rising.
Then Lionel stops. Turns.
POV — Bertie has disappeared from view.
CLOSE ON LIONEL as he realises…he’s no longer therapist to a man who might have to become King.
I can’t help but think of the many times I have hurt my friends — in my anger/pride/fear/insecurity, when I lashed out at those who loved me the most and who were trying to help me. I am grateful that they didn’t give up on me. I pray that God will bless them for their Christ-like love. Jesus defines a true friend as one willing to lay down his or her life for their friends (John 15: 12-13). None of us can journey alone. We need others to help us find our true selves. We need our friends. The apostle Paul was a giant in God’s work. But could he have made it without the help of Barnabas?
When he (Paul) arrived in Jerusalem, he attempted to associate with the disciples, and they were all afraid of him, because they did not believe that he was a disciple. But Barnabas took Saul, brought him to the apostles, and related to them how he had seen the Lord on the road, that the Lord had spoken to him, and how in Damascus he had spoken out boldly in the name of Jesus. (Acts 9:26-27 NET)
In his commentary on Acts, Darrell L. Bock helps us understand what is happening in this passage:
Barnabas speaks up for Saul before the apostles, explaining Saul’s vision and bold preaching for Jesus. The expression is “taking him, he brought him” . . . to the apostles. The idea of “taking him” here has the force of “taking him under his wing” . . . (ACTS, Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2007, 369.)
I am grateful for the Barnabases in my life. Michael Quah was but one of many who took me under their wings. Thank you my friends. I am more grateful than I can say. One way I say “thank you” is to try to help my friends find their voices.