The King’s Speech

Inciting Event: Watching Bertie, the Duke of York, go through another ineffective and humiliating “treatment” for his stammer with another respected doctor. Bertie’s wife Elizabeth gets the name of Lionel Logue, a speech therapist, and visits him to see if he can help her husband.

First Plot Point: After a disastrous first meeting with Lionel Logue, and another stressful and humiliating meeting with his father, King George V, whom everyone loves, Bertie listens to a recording Lionel made of him (Bertie) reading Hamlet perfectly, with no stammering. Bertie realizes it’s possible. He can’t not try.

First Pinch Point: Even before the death of their father the king, it’s apparent Bertie’s older brother David, the Prince of Wales, is going to make a very unsuitable king. After David is crowned King Edward VI, Lionel suggests Bertie would be a much better king. This is basically treason and Bertie says so, but Lionel pushes his point. He and Bertie argue, and Bertie breaks off their sessions.

Midpoint: David abdicates and the thing Bertie has been dreading happens: He must become king, which means not just speaking in public, but being an inspiring leader, something he never dreamed he was capable of doing. But now he must.

Second Pinch Point: Bertie calls in Lionel to help him get through the coronation. During the rehearsal, Bertie is informed Lionel is not an actual doctor. He’s embarrassed for training with someone who isn’t “qualified.”

Third Plot Point: Lionel explains how he got into speech therapy and in the process shows Bertie that results are more important than “letters behind a name.” Bertie now has full confidence in Lionel, to the point that now he’s standing up to the people who had always intimidated him to defend Lionel. He’s embracing the role of king.

Climax: With guidance from Lionel, Bertie gives the speech of his life, explaining to the country why they are going to war again so soon after the horrible experience of the Great War. This speech will define him as a king capable of leading his nation through its worst crisis. By the end of the speech, he believes it himself.

Climactic Moment: After the speech, Bertie thanks Lionel, calling him “Lionel” for the first time, instead of “Dr. Logue.” For the first time, instead of calling him “Bertie,” Lionel calls him “Your Majesty.”

Resolution: It’s very quick. Bertie goes out on the balcony with his family and we can see now that he’s fully embraced the role and responsibility of being king.

Notes: Besides being well structured, this movie is a great example of how to introduce the tension right away, then keep raising it gradually by constantly upping the stakes through the course of the story. At the beginning of the movie, Bertie–and the viewers–don’t know that by the end he’ll be looking at the same goal, of successfully making a speech, but by then the stakes will be so much higher.

(Submitted by Marnie Werner.)

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