Movies as life

Since their invention, movies have had a special place in viewers’ hearts. As with books, there are movies genres to fit all tastes and moods. I usually pick chick flicks (no surprise there) or comedies, but now and then there’s a bit of human drama that is portrayed so beautifully, so compellingly, that I actually have to purchase the movie to watch again.

Such a treat is “The King’s Speech.” I saw it recently, and was completely charmed and touched by the story of a man who was burdened with both a royal role and a speech impediment. Bad enough to have one or the other, but both? Colin Firth very convincingly portrayed this reality, the story of King George VI, who came to the throne as King of England and the British empire during the late 1930s, following his brother’s abdication. The movie focuses on the weight of the responsibility the king feels as war with Germany looms and he is tasked with leadership of his country. Compounding the weight of the job is the stammering impediment he struggles against. Impossible to hide speech difficulties in the new era of radio.

Colin Firth’s ability to imitate the speech patterns of someone who stutters was Oscar-worthy, as was the story itself. You feel the pain of the poor little rich boy as the king recounts in a scene with his speech therapist that he was mistreated as a child by a nanny who withheld food from him, and that it took his parents three years to notice. In another scene, he says he is part of a firm, not a family.

The life-long impact of damage done in formative years is clearly seen, as is the reality that wealth and status don’t insulate anyone from hurt. We are quick to recognize the shortcomings of adults, but how often do we have the opportunity to understand the components that shape the people around us? As illustrated in the movie, even other family members may not realize the emotional battle of a son, brother, daughter, sister. Relationship does not equal insight.

But ultimately, the movie is about overcoming: overcoming circumstances, overcoming personal challenges, overcoming the negative influence of others. The king had one person in his life who was his champion (at least as portrayed in the movie; I can’t vouch for the historical accuracy here). His wife was his cheerleader, his defender, his partner, and she accepted him as he was, but she also sought to help him face the difficulties of his life. Some people are fortunate enough to have such a partner. The really fortunate ones even recognize it.

There are times when each of us needs, and when we can give. And maybe the role changes in relation to the people around us at a given moment. Watching this story, set long ago against the dramatic backdrop of a developing WWII, I realize that regardless of the big picture, there may be a personal triumph or tragedy unfolding. I can’t be a champion for everyone in my life. But there are those I can touch. And the real work begins with seeing.

Who is part of your life that needs your insight, your compassion? When you really think about it, the answers may surprise you. I’m sure that few people would have seen a needy and insecure person in the king of England. But there he was, hiding behind the formality and protocol of the office. Sometimes the ones we least suspect of need are the very people with the greatest deficit.

Look. See. Love. Repeat.

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