I don’t know about you, but it’s not often I see a movie twice while it’s in the theater and then rush out and buy it the week it’s released on DVD. But that’s exactly what I did with “The King’s Speech.” And when I watched it again this last week, I enjoyed it just as much as the first few times. Simply put, it’s brilliant. It’s well-written, it’s well-directed, and the acting is spectacular.
After watching it again, I started thinking about what it is that makes the story — not just the movie, but the story itself — so good. After all, the best actors, writers, and producers are only as good as the stories they have to work with.
My favorite writer, Donald Miller, always says that a story is about a character who wants something and overcomes conflict to get it. For a story to be good, these elements must be clear — and I don’t think they’re hard to find in “The King’s Speech.” The Duke of York wants to speak publicly without stammering, and he overcomes a host of challenges — including an unforeseen “promotion” to king — before conquering not only his stammer, but more importantly, his self-doubt.
And as I thought about this story “formula” and how it plays out in “The King’s Speech,” there was one word I couldn’t get out of my mind: courage.
There’s a lot I love about his movie, but I think one of the things that makes it so great is that you have a vastly underestimated guy standing up to a whole slew of things he doesn’t want to face. He doesn’t want to face the public. He doesn’t want to face his stammer. He doesn’t want to become king. And he most certainly doesn’t want to speak for the nation in a time of war. But these are the issues in his path. And instead of running away, he stands up and he deals with them head on.
That takes courage. Loads of it.
Bertie (as the therapist, Lionel, fondly calls the Duke) would have loved to hide. In fact, he tells Lionel that were he not of royal blood, he would not be seeking help — he and his stammer would be confined to the privacy of his own home. But Bertie had a greater calling on his life. And to fulfill that calling, he had to face his fears.
There’s something intensely beautiful about finding the courage to face the things that haunt us — the things we’d like to change about ourselves, the circumstances we wish were different, or the people we’d rather just ignore. And I think what makes this so beautiful is that it means we’re doing something bigger than ourselves. We’re doing something that defies the odds. Something that people don’t think we can do — something that we might not think we can do. That’s what courage is all about.
What is it that you don’t want to face? What is it that you’re afraid of — that you think you can’t do? And, more importantly, what greater calling might you be missing out on if you don’t face those fears?
I’ve got some things in my life that I’d rather not face. But I’m slowly doing it. Through God’s grace, I find a bit more courage every day. And I’m learning something in the process — something I think Bertie learned too. It’s easy to hole up at home with our problems. But it’s not very productive. We won’t be better off, and neither will anyone else. The best stories are the stories told with courage.