Margiad Evans has wisely observed, "Our health is a voyage and every illness is an adventure." That certainly seems to be the case in The Madness of King George, a Samuel Goldwyn Company release. In 1788, after fathering 15 children and looking after England's best interests for years, the monarch is laid low by a mysterious malady that plays havoc with his digestive system and results in some aberrant behavior.
King George's loyal retainers are quite shaken by his incoherent babbling, the loss of his regal bearing, and some unseemly gropings of the queen's lady in waiting. He confides to his long-suffering wife, "I hear the words and I have to speak them. I have to empty my head of words. Something is not right." Eventually, the king is handed over to Willis, an unconventional doctor who uses some severe behavior control measures to bring him back to his senses.
Based on the witty play by Alan Bennett, The Madness of King George is directed by Nicholas Hytner who makes the most out of comic developments in this costume drama. Nigel Hawthorne gives a dazzling performance as King George, a man who valiantly tries to handle the indignities of his malady and what he calls "paradise lost" the American colonies. Helen Mirren is affecting as his loyal wife, and Rupert Everett comes across well as the Prince of Wales who schemes to be declared regent during his father's descent into madness.
This well-written film shows how illness can turn one's world upside down and test one's mettle. Thanks to the ministrations of Dr. Willis, the king returns to the throne and regains his lively old self. One senses that because of an illness, he is more soulful and a little bit wiser. Would that all of us could be so fortunate.