A child who stutters takes his cues from his parents and authority figures in his/her life. If they have a practical and supportive attitude towards the speech defect, the sense of alienation and unsurmountable difficulty is lessened. Similarly, as an adult the profound friendships and relationships that stutterers have will be with people who aren’t hostile or wary of their communication.
It surely isn’t possible for someone to live anyone else’s shoes or truly comprehend someone’s life experience, but an awareness of the condition helps develop an empathy for it. For most people, our education and understanding of social norms, etiquettes, and humanity comes from what we see represented in media. In recent years, “The King’s Speech” did for stuttering what “My Left Foot” did for cerebral palsy or “Rain Man” did for autism. It brought attention to an impediment and recognized it in our collective public consciousness.
Colin Firth as King George VI and Geoffrey Rush as Lionel Logue as the king’s speech therapist capture the tenuous and intangible intimacy that exists between a stutterer and those who work with them to overcome the speech defect. A cleverly crafted script that with each interaction with the different significant people in the king’s life explores a different facet of the experience one has when they stutter. It subtly and effectively emphasizes how critical supportive relationships are and how essential consistent coaching is.
The king’s struggle for control over his words, his pain, self-doubt, and anger when it slips through his fingers, all in front of an audience of thousands is a visceral experience. The fear that Firth manages to convey is palpable, so is the soothing balm of acceptance and pride in his friend and pupil that Rush conveys. In that, more than perhaps anything else, “The King’s Speech” is unique and praise- worthy. It is accurate in capturing the experience of stuttering. The constant boxing-match that goes on in the mind of a stutterer with itself. Not an incurable disease that is to be treated with condescending caution or ridicule. The mechanics of speech therapy are individual to each person who stutters. However, “The King’s Speech” gets the heart right, with both the quarrels and humor that come from the unlikely friendship between the King and Logue.