Victoria and Abdul Review
By Myla Tosatto
Shut it down, folks. Shut everything down. We have our 2017 Academy Award winner for Best Actress right here. That would be Judi Dench as Queen Victoria in the new Focus Feature film Victoria and Abdul. Like pretty much everything Dame Judi Dench has done, her performance here is sublime as the famously outspoken Queen of England. The film focuses on the later years of the Queen’s life when she meets a young man from India named Abdul Karim (Ali Fazal) who at first is her servant, then spiritual guide, and finally her friend. She is especially keen to learn about India and its culture being the Empress of India.
Director Stephen Frears (Florence Foster Jenkins, Philomena, The Queen) always delights and entertains. He does not disappoint here. He can make serious subject matter feel like a comedy of manners. He has a way of portraying the majestic with a few playful swipes at the upper crust now and again. The comic foils to the cantankerous Queen include her son Bertie (the always luminescent Eddie Izzard), Tim Pigott-Smith (Sir Henry Ponsonby), Dr. Reid (Paul Higgins), and Lord Salisbury (Michael Gambon). Abdul is also blessed with a comic sidekick, Mohammed (Adeel Akhtar), who is particularly entertaining.
This is not a dry biography. It is full of laughs and a few tears, but mostly it’s full of understanding of others and different ways of life. It is also full of beautiful sets and costumes.
Fans of BBC’s Victoria that is currently on PBS will be excited to know that this movie fits in perfectly with the Queen that Jenna Coleman portrays. I don’t think that Ms Dench and Ms Coleman compared notes, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they had!!
The extraordinary true story of an unlikely friendship in the later years of Queen Victoria’s (Academy Award winner Judi Dench) remarkable rule. When Abdul Karim (Ali Fazal), a young clerk, travels from India to participate in the Queen’s Golden Jubilee, he is surprised to find favor with the Queen herself. As the Queen questions the constrictions of her long-held position, the two forge an unlikely and devoted alliance with a loyalty to one another that her household and inner circle all attempt to destroy. As the friendship deepens, the Queen begins to see a changing world through new eyes and joyfully reclaims her humanity.