The Speech impresses with its intelligent and amusing screenplay, brought to life by perfectly tuned performances and hilariously awkward characters.
There are a certain number of unspoken rules that completely make or break a comedy film: it has to be funny, it has to be engaging, it has to be relatable – and thankfully Laurent Tirard’s The Speech (Le Discours) effortlessly ticks every single one of these boxes. It truly understands exactly what it needs to do to keep the audience invested and entertained, leading us through a fast-paced journey of stylish flashbacks and hypotheticals that eventually culminate in an emotionally resonant finale. Every character is interesting, every situation is amusing, and every line of dialogue feels precisely crafted to fit the unique tone of the film. It never settles for the conventional, opting instead for a much more inventive and imaginative approach to telling it’s story.
When hopeless romantic Adrien (Benjamin Lavernhe) is asked to prepare a speech for his sister’s wedding, he begins to spiral and reflect upon his own amourous failures over the years, walking us through his hilariously introspective metaphorical graveyard of unsuccessful relationships. But this self-indulgent pity parade can’t last forever, as a problem with his current girlfriend keeps dragging him back to reality and forcing him to question what exactly he’s been doing wrong all these years. It’s a painfully relatable and entertaining insight into the young dating scene, and it displays an extremely impressive command of the characters and emotion from Tirard’s witty screenplay. Despite the film’s disjointed, non-linear structure, there’s never a moment that will leave the audience confused or distanced from the film’s unrelenting charm.
The Speech is carried on the shoulders of Lavernhe’s hilariously open and honest performance as Adrien, which touches on his romantic misfortune and social awkwardness with a warm sincerity that’s bound to speak to anybody who’s ever found themselves in a similar situation. It’s a film for those who might not always ‘fit in’, or perhaps don’t yet exactly know their place within society. Tirard breaks down these concepts of normality and crafts something uniquely individual, with the distinct particularity of humanity being celebrated through comedy. As far as comedy movies go, this is one that should be praised for its prioritisation of humanity and authenticity above all else, never sacrificing the integrity of its characters for a few cheap laughs – every moment feels earned, and more importantly, purposeful.
What makes The Speech feel so much more refreshing and original than many other modern comedies is its complete willingness to divert from the traditional structure of a film like this. The entire film takes place over the course of one family dinner, but we follow Adrien’s mind through visions of the past, the future and things that could have been. Most of the scenes that we’re watching either haven’t happened yet or never will, and this makes for a much richer and more captivating viewing experience than if we’d just seen this story play out linearly. There are plenty of bold choices with the film’s narrative, editing, performances and set design, and whilst they don’t all work perfectly, the overall result is so much more illuminating than one might expect. It’s an extremely welcome departure from the often homogenised nature of studio comedies in today’s cinematic climate.
The Speech also marks a huge success for director Laurent Tirard, whose cinematic style and charismatic vision is clear in every frame of the film. Whether it’s the bright colours, the unusual camera movements or the reinforced symmetry of many shots, it all comes together to create something that is as pleasing visually as it is intellectually. It’s the work of somebody who has a true grasp of their own design, which makes it infinitely easier for the audience to lose themselves in this story for an hour or two. It’s this, along with the film’s sharp wit and precise characterisation, that makes The Speech such an engaging and entertaining watch throughout, and one of the most well-balanced and amusing comedies of the year.
The Speech (Le Discours) was screened at the French Film Festival @ Home from Tuesday 7 December, 2021.