The King’s Speech, tomorrow, BBC One, 11pm

Now 10 years old, Tom Hooper’s film about George VI and his stammer garnered a whopping 12 Oscar nominations and won four, including best film, actor, director and screenplay. Then again it would, wouldn’t it? America loves a classy British period piece served up with uniforms, drawling accents and breath-taking interiors evocative of history and tradition, and in the wake of the success of The King’s Speech came first Downton Abbey and then The Crown, Netflix’s all-conquering drama about the Royal Family.

That’s not to say the Oscar win wasn’t merited. David Seidler’s script is excellent, as are the performances of Colin Firth (as stuttering George VI), Geoffrey Rush (as Lionel Logue, the no-bullshit Australian speech therapist who tutors him) and Helena Bonham Carter (as George’s wife, Queen Elizabeth, aka the Queen Mum). A film about a king and his speech therapist? Shouldn’t work but somehow it does, helped along by the ministrations of a fine supporting cast which includes Jennifer Ehle, Derek Jacobi, Michael Gambon, Guy Pierce and (reunited for the first time since they played mother and son in Brideshead Revisited) Anthony Andrews and Claire Bloom.

Viewed through the prism of current events, however, The King’s Speech takes on added lustre and seems even more significant. It’s no longer a drama about a quirky relationship set against the background of the second world war but a film with deep contemporary relevance. For a start, it covers the abdication of George’s brother, Edward VIII, who gave up the throne in order to marry an American divorcee and lived out his days in France un-reconciled to his younger brother or to the country he left behind. Map Prince Harry’s present situation onto that any way you like.

More prescient, however, is the idea of the monarch addressing the nation with dignity and gravitas at a time of crisis. Hooper’s film builds up to just such a speech at the outbreak of the second world war – that’s hardly a plot spoiler – but nobody watching can fail to make the connection between that speech and the equally historic one made by George VI’s elder daughter last month and watched by 24 million Britons. There’s even some off-the-cuff Churchillian rhetoric to conjure with alongside George’s scripted words. We currently have current Prime Minister Boris Johnson trying to play the role of Winnie in an IRL version of a national crisis: Timothy Spall makes a much better fist of it here playing Churchill in a dramatized version of an earlier one. The King’s Speech is a great film in its own right, but even if you’ve seen it half a dozen times it’s worth coming back to again.

Portrait Of A Lady On Fire, MUBI

Now streaming

Winner of both the Best Screenplay award at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival and also the Queer Palm award, given to the best LGBT-relevant film, Céline Sciamma’s sumptuous 18th century period piece tells of the passionate love affair between aristocratic Héloïse (Adèle Haenel, Sciamma’s former partner) and Marianne (Noémie Merlant), the woman sent to paint her portrait. The trouble is Héloïse, who is to be married (unwillingly) to a gentleman in remote Milan, refuses to sit and has already seen off one artist sent to take up the commission. Duplicitous Marianne has to pretend instead to have been sent as a companion and to paint in secret. Cue surreptitious sidelong glances as she eyes up her subject. Barring a maid (Luàna Bajrami) and Héloïse’s mother (Valeria Golina), who disappears to Milan for most of the film, it’s essentially a two-hander and follows Héloïse and Marianne as they take long walks along the rugged Breton coast, rattle around the enormous chateau and, eventually, fall in love. The flashback structure lets you know things aren’t going to end happily. The film lacks the rumbustiousness of Yorgos Lanthimos’s Oscar winner The Favourite – it’s quiet and moody where The Favourite was loud and ribald – but the themes are similar and it’s just as stylish and authored. Sciamma’s spare and inventive image-making is riveting and the film cleverly turns the idea of the male gaze on its head, but it’s the emotion of the relationship which provides the power. A real gem.

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