VICTORIA AND ABDUL – A Review by Cynthia Flores
The film Victoria and Abdul starts out with the words “Based on true events…mostly true.” That’s a great way to set the stage for this delightful lush, well shot and evenly directed film by Stephen Frears. I’m a hard core Downton Abbey fan, so I love movies like this that let you have a “behind the scenes” look at royalty in England. Also, anything Dame Judi Dench is in peaks my interest. An interesting side note is that her first Oscar nomination in 1997, came when she played the younger Queen Victoria in the film Mrs. Brown, also based on true events surrounding her manservant from Scotland. So, the fact that twenty years later she gets to play the same part of Queen Victoria in her last years and the story also revolves around her relationship with a manservant is unique indeed. In fact, I can’t think of any other actor or actress that can make that claim.
In Victoria and Abdul, we meet Queen Victoria (Judi Dench) when she’s old and tired of all the meetings and obligations of royal life. It’s at a dinner for her Golden Jubilee that she first meets Abdul Karim (Ali Fazal) and Mohammed (Adeel Akhtar) two men from India sent to present her with a golden coin. They are taught what they must do during the presentation and warned “Never look the Queen in the eye.” But of course the taller, younger, and more lighthearted Abdul looks the queen in the eyes and smiles, and that’s the start of it all.
The rest of the film follows the chaste friendship through years of travels with the queen as her personal “Munshi” which is Urdu for teacher. Abdul sees it as an adventure and his friend Mohammed only sees it as a punishment to serve the oppressive regime in such a cold country. The longer the Munshi spent with the queen, teaching her the Indian language Urdu and Muslim philosophies the unhappier her household staff and her son Bertie (Eddie Izzard) the Prince of Wales and next in line to inherit the throne got. At one point they threaten to have her committed if she did not stop showering the Munshi with so much attention.
The movie Victoria and Abdul does show how entitled and prejudiced the English were against the lower class colored people they ruled, but that is not it’s main goal. At the core of the film it shows the story of a very powerful but lonely old queen that comes to life through the friendship of a sweet and caring Indian man. The movie has lots to make you angry at, you almost want to boo at the screen every time Bertie does something wrong to the Munshi. However, it has lots of honest laughs and touching scenes in it as well. You usually don’t laugh so much during an historical drama but you will here. That is why I used the word delightful to describe this film. Will it win any
Oscars, I doubt it, but it will make you feel good when you see it? I think it’s worth the price of admission to see this film on the big screen.
Directed by: Stephen Frears
Written By: Lee Hall, Shrabani Basu
Cast: Judi Dench, Ali Fazal, Tim Pigott-Smith, Eddie Izzard, Adeel Akhtar
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Selig Rating: A-
Runtime: 112 Min.
Limited Release Angelika Dallas to a wider release
The Selig Rating Scale:
A – Excellent movie, well worth the price.
B – Good movie
C – OK movie
D – No need to rush. Save it for a rainy day.
F – Good that I saw it on the big screen but wish I hadn't paid for it.