As we crawl out of the summer action movie season, the first of the serious award-contenders moves into view. Victoria & Abdul is the captivating untold story of a hushed-up relationship between an aged Queen Victoria (Judi Dench) and her Indian servant, Abdul Kareem (Ali Fazal).
This film is delightful as it unfolds and reveals the special friendship between Queen and servant slowly from beginning to end. The focus of the film is rightly on the scandal (for the day) of the queen of England (and head of the Church of England) having a spiritual teacher who is neither white nor Christian. If there is a criticism to be made it’s the racial references.
Above all, this is an acting tour de force for Dame Judi Dench, reprising her role as the elderly Queen Victoria from Mrs. Brown, which is now 20 years old! I know its early in the season to be placing bets, but Dench’s master performance screams Oscar to me. Dame Judi is the Queen personified.
Relative newcomer Ali Fazal (he had a role in the “Furious 7” film) is impressive, bringing the warmth and compassion to the supporting role that is needed to maintain the overall balance of comedy and drama.
Another star of the show is the Scottish countryside, ravishingly photographed. Victoria & Abdul will probably do more for the Scottish Tourist Board than any paid for advertising could ever do. LOL
The film claims to be “Based on a True Story… Mostly”, and this tease of a caption both infuriates and intrigues me in equal measure after watching it. The ending left me feeling obliged to delve into the original source material to learn more. I guess I know what I’ll be reading this winter.
Overall, I recommend Victoria & Abdul as a delightful, balanced and brilliantly acted drama. I would say this is a must see for viewers over the age of 50 in need of cinematic story telling that doesn’t disappoint or leave them running from the theater in disgust. This film acts as respectable tribute to a remarkable relationship that we all want in our life.