But I watched The King's Speech this week and immediately added it to the list. Yes, the context... the British Royal Family... is far from most of our experience, but only one level of the film is "royal/historical" (though that is a very fine level indeed, with some fascinating attempts at insight into both the Queen Elizabeths of our age). The other level is a much more common tale. A tale of disability and bullying, powerlessness and power, perseverance and the high costs of being seen as a success.
"Bertie Windsor" is mocked and abused because he cannot do "the expected" easily. This occurs at the hands of the father who loves him and desperately wants him to succeed, and at the hands of those - including his older brother - who simply enjoy feeling superior. He is mistreated by quack "healers" - wait for the marbles scene - and made to feel as if he is somehow less than human, royal birthright or not.
This film is not a tale of triumph. Yes, George VI becomes a beloved monarch who did much for his nation at its time of greatest peril, but that is not the point of the film, or of this man's life. Rather it is a story of fear, of loneliness, of desperation, of effort, and yes, of cost. Becoming what others want/need him to be is a mountain which "Bertie" must scale, and it is a climb which injures him in permanent ways. As the film The Queen puts it, [Tony Blair on Elizabeth II] "That woman has given her whole life in service to her people. Fifty years doing a job SHE never wanted! A job she watched kill her father."
And it is not a tale of "cure" either, though Geoffrey Rush's Lionel Logue uses that term. Bertie needs "accommodations" his whole life - in the form of the personal and constant efforts of Logue at every speech. He needs - in the media of the time - to be seen much more than heard. It never gets easy, it never gets solved, and Bertie battles his "issues" his whole life.
When you watch the film, when you watch Colin Firth's face as he struggles, as he is humiliated, see the faces of all the children in our schools who find themselves struggling, with speech, with reading, with writing. And stop telling them to "try harder" and reach out with the individual helps they need. And accept that they are fully human, even if they never will quite do things as you do.
- Ira Socol