I've just got back in from watching 'The King's Speech', a film which has already garnered a 'Golden Globe' for Colin Firth, and which is widely tipped for BAFTA and Oscar success. It's not often that I get to see such widely-acclaimed films before they achieve success, but I have to say I was roundly impressed by both the story and the performances.
I was reflecting on the way home how much Britain as a society has changed over the intervening 75 years or so since the events of the film took place. The deference, the class consciousness and the clipped tones of the BBC all seem to have faded into the background - I won't say they've disappeared completely, because that wouldn't be true. We are a very different country now from then, and, if I'm honest, that's probably not a bad thing.
What brought this about, though? I'm sure many historians have their theories - probably as many theories as there are historians - but perhaps the two 'Great' wars of the last century (and if ever there was a misnomer for war, it's 'great') did much to erode the class distinctions, as 'Toffs' and 'Tommies' fought side-by-side in the trenches and the battlefields of Europe and beyond. They also helped to bring about the closer equality we have between the genders now, as women proved, through necessity, that they could do the jobs traditionally done by men just as well (if not better) as the men could. The underlying thread of the story, as Lionel the Speech Therapist (and a 'colonial' to boot) insists on speaking to the Duke of York as 'Bertie', illustrates the gradual levelling-out of the social playing field, and maybe paved the way for George & Elizabeth's 'common touch' approach to the horrors of the Blitz that were to come.
Perhaps hinted at, too, was the bullying that went on in the Royal home as a consequence of Bertie's stammer (the cause of which was never fully divulged). Would that we have conquered that particular issue: sadly children still suffer horribly for being 'different', however much we wrap that difference up in PC language.
I found the film to be a challenging and moving piece of cinema, wonderfully well acted, and hope that it will reap its just rewards as the Awards season looms.