User Reviews (94)

  • bob-the-movie-man17 September 2017
    "And the Oscar goes to... Dame Judi Dench"
    As we crawl out of the (largely disappointing) summer movie season, the first of the serious award-contenders hoves into view. Victoria and Abdul tells the untold story of a hushed-up relationship between an aged Queen Victoria (Judi Dench, "Philomina", "Spectre") and her Indian servant, Abdul Kareem (Ali Fazal).

    Kareem is shipped to England from Agra to deliver a ceremonial coin to the Queen on the occasion of her Diamond Jubilee, together with a grumbling 'stand-in tall guy' Mohammed (Adeel Akhtar, "The Big Sick", "Four Lions"). Kareem finds the Queen as sour, depressed and acidic as her post-Albert reputation would have you imagine. But something clicks between the two, and pretty soon the perked-up queen is learning Urdu and all about the Koran, much to the horror of her successor Teddy, the Prince of Wales (a splendid Eddie Izzard, "Oceans 13") and the rest of the royal household, who try desperate measures to derail the relationship.

    This film is a complete delight. I went along without great expectations.... a worthy film I thought I should go and see to write a worthy review about. But I was entranced from beginning to end. It's probably best described as a comedy drama... always a difficult trick for a movie-maker to pull off. But here in the competent hands of director Stephen Frears ("Florence Foster Jenkins") the comedy is both very, VERY funny, with the drama also being extremely moving. And crucially the transition between the two never feels forced.

    I've seen a few critical comments that the film's underlying topic - the subjugation of the Indian state and the queen's role in that, is a "serious topic" and not a suitable subject for a comedy like this. And of course, "the Empire" is a terrible legacy that the British people have around their necks in the same manner as Germans have their Nazi past and the American South have their history of slavery. But the film never really gets into these issues in any depth: Abdul's background, whilst sketchily drawn and feeling rather sanitised for the late 1800's, is one of a middle-class Indian with a decent colonial job: someone shown respect by his British managers. While the "uprising" of Muslims is mentioned - indeed it's a key part of the story - Victoria's lack of knowledge of such things, or indeed of all things to do with the country she is 'Empress' of, is made clear. The focus of the film is quite rightly on the understandable scandal (for the day) of the queen of England (and hence head of the Church of England) having a spiritual teacher (or "Munshi") who is neither white nor Christian. If there is a criticism to be made of the splendid script by Lee Hall ("War Horse") it is that the racial references - and there are a few - feel rather over-sanitised given the tensions that erupt as the story unfolds.

    Above all, this is an acting tour de force for Dame Judi, reprising her role as the elderly queen from "Mrs Brown" which (shockingly!) is now 20 years old. I know its early in the season to be placing bets, before having seen any of the other major contenders, but Dench's "insanity" speech screams "Oscar reel" to me. Her performance is masterly from beginning to end.

    Rather overshadowed by Dench is the relative newcomer to western cinema Ali Fazal (he had a role in the "Furious 7" film). But his performance is almost as impressive, bringing the warmth and compassion to the supporting role that is so sorely needed if the overall balance of the film is to be maintained.

    The supporting cast is equally stellar with Olivia Williams ("An Education", "The Sixth Sense") acidic as Baroness Churchill; Simon Callow ("Four Weddings and a Funeral") as Puccini; Michael Gambon ("Harry Potter") as Lord Salisbury and Tim Pigott-Smith as Henry Ponsonby, head of the royal household. This was Pigott-Smith's final live-action performance before his untimely death at the age of only 70 in April of this year: and it's sad to say that he really doesn't look well in this film. Also of note is Fenella Woolgar as lady's maid Miss Phipps, comical as a the quivering wreck holding the shortest straw in having to face up to her ferocious mistress.

    Another star of the show is the Scottish countryside, ravishingly photographed by Danny Cohen ("Florence Foster Jenkins", "Room") with this film probably doing more for the Scottish Tourist Board than any paid for advertising could ever do!

    As the film comments it's "Based on a True Story... Mostly", and this tease of a caption both infuriates and intrigues in equal measure.  I may feel obliged to delve into the original source material by Shrabani Basu to learn more.  

    Overall this is a true delight of a film, perfectly balanced, brilliantly acted: I would say this is a "must see" for any older viewers over the age of 50 in need of a cinema outing that doesn't disappoint. This is everything that (for me) "Viceroy's House" should have been but wasn't. Highly recommended.

    (For the graphical version of this review, please visit www.bob-the- Thanks.)
  • ruthszulc18 September 2017
    Judi does it again
    What an amazing movie, Judi is as usual, such a wonderful actress portraying Queen Victoria once again. The story line is fantastic and it flows beautifully. This would have to be the best film for me this year. I love how they made this film so funny, and yet so touching. I laughed and I cried all the way through.
  • RedRider1414 September 2017
    Surprisingly endearing
    My wife and I attended a preview screening last night with no preconceived ideas about the movie, not having even seen a trailer.

    We were immediately drawn in and pleasantly surprised by the story, even though we thought it may have been a little far fetched. Until we found that it is a biography and mostly fact. That made the story even sweeter.

    Dame Judy Dench's acting was peerless as usual, but by far the biggest revelation was Ali Fazal, who put in a wonderful performance from comedic through emotionally intense.

    There was so much I didn't know about Queen Victoria's twilight years that this movie put into perspective, in a way that was consistently entertaining. We laughed and cried. Highly recommended.
  • ritera18 October 2017
    Very good acting, little else.
    Warning: Spoilers
    I'm a bit lost on why Dench did this film. It certainly was a wealth to work with in context of the character.

    But the script was very much historically inaccurate. The direction was poor and the editing choppy.

    Billed as the relationship between the Queen and Abdul, it actually asked you to take their word for it and then focused on the redundant conflict between their relationship and the rest of the household. There were only a few cursory scenes between the two and their interactions that felt laborious with no chemistry. If they supposedly had such absorbing conversations, they never depicted them.

    What little I subsequently read, it was very clear that extensive historical inaccuracies were boiled down to an essentially fictional account compressed into a relatively short span vs. the long period that it did take place. Abdul, as depicted, was supposedly selfless and devoted. History actually said he was very selfish and opportunistic, which would be line with reality being that the British Empire was no friend of the Indian people. Thus, a selfless Indian devotee of the Queen would be bizarre.

    One oddity that stood out to me was Mohammid's death. In the film, Mohammid wanted to go back to India but ended up in England 'til his death due to the weather. No explanation why he would not have been permitted to return and why Abdul would not have facilitated that. It didn't happen like that in real life, though.

    The direction was poor as there was no ebb and flow to the dialogue and interchanges. Most parties were speaking with the same rushed rhythm and tone. I had the feeling that the production was very much rushed and these good actors could do the best they could. I don't want to detail such, but the editing was choppy at best.

    One of the warning flags was early on when they teased showing the Queen's face, over and over. Then when they did it farted out as it was at a distance and hard to see her face. I expected some sort of distinct appearance and a look of dejection from Dench.

    Miss it. Not worth it. If you are a junkie for this period, you might sort-of like it.
  • zif ofoz12 November 2017
    Empty costume flick
    For all the praise and glory this flick has received I must disagree!

    Judi Dench is boorish as Victoria because it's just another Dench role she has perfected in previous movies. A strong willed hard nosed yet vulnerable woman. And Ali Fazal as Abdul comes across as more like a puppet than a person. The character development in both Victoria and Abdul is at a total loss.

    I believe the other reviewers that speak so colorfully about this flick are overwhelmed by the magnificent production and photography and completely fail to see the thread bare script and transparent story line.

    Four stars because it was pretty to watch.
  • Scorchedgoat6 November 2017
    Why are these two so important to each other?
    First, let me say that this movie was gorgeous. Secondly, I'll say that Dame Judy Dench and Eddie Izzard are great, and...well that's about it.

    In my opinion, Dench and Fazal have absolutely no chemistry. The whole movie I kept waiting for something to connect these two in a way that would feel meaningful, and it never came.

    I kept thinking, "Why would this woman care so much about this man?" He seems to relish her presence and her his...but why?

    He treats his friend like absolute garbage and he just seemed like such a selfish individual, even with his childlike wonder about royalty, he just never seemed to "get it".

    Go back and watch Mrs. Brown to see a better Queen Victoria story.
  • David Ferguson28 September 2017
    dame judi does it again
    Greetings again from the darkness. Director Stephen Frears has enjoyed a long career by focusing on the interesting stories of people, rather than the salient specifics of history or politics. He received Oscar nominations for THE QUEEN and THE GRIFTERS, and helmed other crowd-pleasers such as MRS. HENDERSON PRESENTS, PHILOMENA, HIGH FIDELITY, and FLORENCE FOSTER JENKINS. While purely entertaining movies are always welcome, it's important to note the filmmaker's approach when the story is entwined with historical importance.

    "Based on real events … mostly" is Mr. Frears' cutesy way of kicking off the film and asking us to enjoy the unusual story of connection between a Queen and a servant, and cut him some slack on the historical depth. For most of us, the real enjoyment will be derived from watching yet another standout performance from Oscar winner (and 7 time nominee) Dame Judi Dench as the longest-reigning monarch, Queen Victoria in her elderly years. It's a role she played twenty years ago in MRS. BROWN, and her relationship with John Brown (presented in that film) has some parallels to what we see here with Abdul Karim (Ali Fazal). Dame Judi is the rare actress who can capture both the loneliness and tiresome burden of six decades of rule and the re-invigorated woman we see learning a new language and new religion. She plays weary and spunky with equal believability.

    Victoria was Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and Empress of India, and in 1861 her beloved husband Prince Albert died. This film picks up in 1887 with the pomp and circumstance of the Golden Jubilee – a celebration of her 50 years of rule. The early scenes tease us with obstructed views, and the comedic element becomes quite obvious as we see her so carelessly slurping her soup at the formal lunch. Part of the celebration includes the presentation of an honorary coin by two Indians peasants Abdul (Fazal) and Mohammed (Adeel Akhtar), the first chosen because of his height, and the second as a last minute fill-in.

    Lee Hall (Oscar nominated for BILLY ELLIOT) wrote the screenplay based on the book by Shrabani Basu. The journals of Abdul Karim were only discovered in 2010, a hundred years after his death. Some of the less favorable moments of this era are mentioned, but most of the Queen's lack of knowledge or awareness is attributed to the "boring" reports from her advisers. This leads to some awkward moments later in the film regarding the Muslim mutiny and the subsequent Fatwa.

    Rather than dwell on history, the film prefers to focus on the unconventional friendship and the re-awakening of the Queen. Abdul becomes her "Munshi" – a spiritual adviser and her teacher of Urda and the Koran. As you would expect, this is all quite scandalous and frustrating for those such as Prime Minister Lord Salisbury (Michael Gambon), Lady Churchill (Olivia Williams), Victoria's son Bertie (Eddie Izzard), and the royal staff: Sir Henry (the recently deceased Tim Pigott-Smith), her physician Dr Reid (Paul Higgins), and her quivering maid Miss Phipps (Fenella Woolgar). There is even a comical sequence with the great singer Puccini (Simon Callow) as the Queen herself belts out the Gilbert and Sullivan song "I'm Called Little Buttercup".

    Balmoral, the Isle of Wight, and Windsor Castle are all part of the breath-taking scenery, while the absurdity of the royal status is viewed through the eyes of the Indian servants. Most of the focus is on Victoria's transformation from joyless, isolated monarch to the anything-but-insane (an Oscar worthy scene) and eager to engage elderly woman (one who has an entire era named after her) falling back in love with life as she fights off "the banquet of eternity". Come for the laughs and the performance of Dame Judi … just not for a history lesson.
  • dromasca25 September 2017
    an impossible love story
    The history of England was blessed with several famous queens - starting with head-losers Anne Boleyn and Mary Stuart, continuing the two Elisabeth's and of course Queen Victoria, the record holder of longevity until recently, the queen who gave her name to a whole era of maximal glory and expansion of the British Empire. The big dames of English cinema were accordingly blessed with the respective fabulous roles that they love to bring to the big screens and are regarded as peaks of their careers. For Dame Judi Dench, Victoria and Abdul directed by Stephen Frears provides (for the second time actually) the opportunity to create a memorable portrait of Victoria. Her success in completing this task is the best part and the best that can be said and written about this production. Unfortunately, this is not the only thing that can be said and written about this film.

    It's very difficult to disconnect the historical episode of the relationship between the old widow who was also the queen of the largest empire on earth at her time (and maybe at all times) and the Muslim servant from India who raised to become her secretary, counselor, spiritual adviser, friend, surrogate son and maybe more than all these, and the political situation today, 120 years later, when the divided Britain faced with the realities of globalization and immigration tries to put again sea and borders between her and Europe. The authors of the film invested quite a lot in describing the atmosphere of the imperial households and its corridors of power and gossip with the adequate costumes and decoration but they are talking all the time to the contemporary spectator while telling a story based on real history or facts as they happened ... or almost, as they cautionary and wisely warn us in the opening.

    We are thus left with an impossible friendship and even love story, impossible because of a mountain of reasons: class differences, race prejudices, age gap, cultural and historical precipices. The only thing that can save such a film from falling in complete melodrama or faked rhetoric is the human dimension. In Victoria and Abdul this dimension is only partially delivered by the splendid acting performance of Judi Dench. Unfortunately, the rest of the cast cannot come even close to her class. Ali Fazal is fit physically but lacks the nuances that can explain some of the contradictions of his personality. We never know or really understand what is his real class background, whether the deepness of his knowledge in the Quran and oriental culture is genuine, or if he intentionally misled his beloved queen in the details of the history and realities of the inter-faith conflicts on the Indian continent. The rest of the cast is condemned to represent a gallery of half-ridiculous, half-perverse characters representing the British aristocracy class full of prejudice and bad faith. If only the caricature would have been pushed a little further we could have had more comical fun, but Stephen Frears could not really abandon the ambition of passing some important message about today's politics. In my opinion he failed, and the principal great merit of this film is telling a half-baked potential love story while allowing Judi Dench to add another great role to her illustrious filmography.
  • brankovranjkovic25 September 2017
    Victoria and Abdul: Grey Audience Special
    Warning: Spoilers
    BBC Films. Based on a true story (mostly). This is a film about the controversial friendship between Queen Victoria and a Muslim 'coin carrier' Abdul. Abdul is awarded the role of presenting the coin at a Royal banquet simply because he is tall, a friendship develops and he is promoted very quickly within the household and much to the annoyance of the other staff.

    This is Britain doing what it does best, great performances, great costumes, and great cinematography. Judy Dench is amazing as always.

    I was not expecting much humour, but this film so funny in places, particularly during the first hour. The downside is the politics at the time, which can obviously linked to current political affairs, especially Brexit, the BBC can be so left wing!
  • Kingslaay23 September 2017
    Great film and story
    Warning: Spoilers
    Victoria and Abdul was a truly enjoyable film. It is a story about the friendship between a monarch in her final days who outlived many dear ones and a genuine and religious soul who relished in her company. A simpleton who wished to serve and is full of life won the favor of the celebrated monarch who saw his true intentions and valued his heartfelt wishes. The bond has to be one of the most unusual as well as greatest friendships in history. The film is a treat to watch and showcases some great performances from the cast, especially the two leads. At the same time it is a window into an interesting and rich part of history. It shed light on events that were unknown till 2010 and quite fascinating to learn and watch.

    The soft and innocent friendship was enjoyable to watch from the dance scene to the walk shared in Florence. The film also had nice doses of humor hear and there to liven the film up. It was the meeting of two different worlds, on one side an aged ruler and on the other a low level simpleton who connected on a humane level. For a brief moment the queen and the audience forgot about Imperialism and colonisation. The end resembled a tragedy with the Queen dying and Abdul Karim being thrown out of England. The end with Abdul paying respects to his queen close to the Taj Mahal that he passionately told her about was a nice touch to end such a good film.

  • Martin Bradley19 September 2017
    This goes down a treat.
    Last year it was ethnicity that dominated the Oscars and this year it could well be longevity. I recently predicted that, at the age of 91, Harry Dean Stanton could be Oscar's oldest ever Best Actor and even now there is every chance he will be posthumously nominated while Dame Judi, a mere 82, should have no worries in being a sure-fire contender for her performance as Queen Victoria in "Victoria & Abdul". It's a part she has already played in "Mrs. Brown", (losing out to Helen Hunt in "It's As Good as it Gets"), and to be fair, this is something of a walk in the park for her.

    We are told the movie is 'mostly' based on actual events but I think we have to take a lot of what we see with a pinch of salt. It's certainly an entertaining picture, if a little twee and whimsical at times, but there is also a little more heft to it than meets the eye. As written by Lee Hall and directed by Stephen Frears this is no mere sentimental, historical romp. It is, of course, the story of the Queen's friendship, in the years before her death, with her Indian servant Abdul Karim, (Ali Fazal, an actor new to me), which until recently was something kept very much under wraps and which was very much opposed to by the Prime Minister, her son the Prince of Wales and the entire royal household and Hall makes this another post-Brexit movie, (I have a feeling we are going to see a lot of post-Brexit movies in the next few years).

    What we have here is a film about racism and about empire and it's quite as relevant today as it was back in Victoria's time. Not that you have to take it too seriously; there's a lot of low comedy on display and Frears has assembled an outstanding cast of British character actors. Eddie Izzard is an obnoxious future king, the late Tim Piggot-Smith is quite wonderful as the toadying head of the household, Michael Gambon is the befuddled Prime Minister and Paul Higgins practically walks off with the picture as the Queen's concerned doctor; concerned, not with her health, but with the number of Indians about the place. As a piece of film-making there is, naturally, a large dose of Masterpiece Theatre on display but that, in itself, isn't such a bad thing. "Victoria & Abdul" goes down a treat.
  • malcolmgsw18 September 2017
    judi dench is marvelous
    This has to be one of the best films that I have seen this year.Judi Dench is peerless as Queen Victoria.She is the queen personified.We can see that whatever understanding that she has of her Indian subjects will pass with her and that the ingrained attitudes will eventually lead to Independence and loss of Empire.A really excellent film.
  • Woodchal15 September 2017
    That Dame can act!
    Some good performances to support another superb performance by Judy Dench. Izzard was a revelation.

    Good pace, good camera work - More history well told than masterpiece, but a good night out.

    More comedic lines than I was expecting. Is the racism at the core of the film as much about class as religion?
  • einat b8 December 2017
    I'm disappointed because I expected more from this movie.
    Mainly for two reasons: 1) There were a few scenes (dialogue level) in which Abdul told the queen "half truths", or let the queen assume things (Victoria referred to those things while talking to him) without correcting her. Also, a few scenes Abdul had with another Hindo named Mohammed discussing the British people. 2) The romantic tinge being hinted over and over again.

    And there are a few more things, but mentioning those might be spoilers.

    Was Abdul a good guy? - OR was he an opportunist taking advantage of an old lady and the British people who took over India? I do believe he cared for her on some level, but that's the question I am going to take from this movie.
  • M B23 December 2017
    Quite disappointing
    Being a Pakistani, and a Muslim, I was quite looking forward to watch Victoria & Abdul. It seemed as if a new perspective had been depicted on the subcontinent and the British attitudes towards her colonies. However, this film does not feel real at all. It seems the Queen follows Abdul blindly; this seems strange for a lady who was the Empress of India. Although it is a true story, I feel they could have done much more with the movie so that it would feel real at least. Or maybe the relation between the two was quite unreal.
  • James Hitchcock22 September 2017
    The Loneliness of Power
    Warning: Spoilers
    First we had "Mrs Brown", a film about the real-life relationship between Queen Victoria (played by Judi Dench) and one of her servants. And now we have "Victoria & Abdul, another film about the real-life relationship between Queen Victoria (played by Judi Dench) and one of her servants. The subject of the first film was the Scottish ghillie John Brown, whose friendship with the Queen proved controversial because it gave rise to rumours that the two were having a sexual relationship and even that they were secretly married (hence the title). I don't think anyone believed that Victoria had married her Indian-born servant Abdul Karim- nobody ever called her "Mrs Karim"- but their relationship was nevertheless controversial. In an age when the supremacy of the white race was widely taken for granted, many British people would have regarded a close friendship between their Queen and an Indian, especially an Indian of humble social origins, as quite inappropriate.

    The film relates how in 1887, the year of Victoria's Golden Jubilee, Abdul Karim, a clerk from Agra, was one of two Indians selected to present her with a medal on behalf of the Indian Government. By the Queen's wish the two men remained in England as her servants and a close relationship grew up between her and Karim after she asked him to teach her Urdu (or, as she referred to it "Hindustani"). He became her confidant and she gave him the title "Munshi", meaning "teacher"; this was a reference not merely to his role as a teacher of Urdu but also implied that he was, in some sense, her philosophical and spiritual guide as well. (She was deeply impressed by his devotion to his Muslim faith). His closeness to the Queen, however, made him unpopular both with the senior members of the Royal Household (who resented the fact that a man they regarded as their inferior was being treated as their equal) and by the servants (who resented the fact that a man they regarded as, at best, their equal was being treated as their superior). Karim was also disliked by Victoria's son Bertie, the future Edward VII, and as soon as the old Queen died he was shipped back to India on the new King's orders.

    Much of the criticism of the film has been political rather than artistic; director Stephen Frears has been accused of whitewashing colonialism and of depicting Abdul Karim as excessively servile. Yet it is a matter of historical record that Victoria was deeply attached to Karim and deplored any attempt to denigrate him, and indeed Indians in general, on account of their race or skin colour. The film's depiction of her as a sort of proto-anti-racist is therefore, to some account, historically accurate. And as for allegations that Ali Fazal played Karim as "too servile", he was, after all, a servant. It would have been very unwise for him to have treated the Queen, who was both his employer and his sovereign, in anything other than a deferential manner.

    One might well ask why, if Queen Victoria was an anti-racist, she was happy to reign over an Empire founded upon the idea that all men are not created equal and that the white races had the duty to export, if need be by force of arms, their supposedly superior civilisation to other parts of the world. That would be a good question; all I can say is that the Victorian age did not see, as our age sees, a contradiction between a belief in the moral rightness of the British Empire and the belief that one should treat individual members of other races with the same courtesy and respect that one would extend to Europeans. The standard "white man's burden" justification for imperialism strikes us as being at best patronising and at worst hypocritical. At the time it did not necessarily strike people in the same way.

    There are a few historical errors. In a scene set in 1887, Liliuokalani is described as "Queen of Hawaii"; in that year she was still a Princess and did not become Queen until 1891. Victoria, who was regularly kept briefed by her ministers and who had access to government papers, would have been a lot more knowledgeable about the causes of the Indian Mutiny than she is shown here. Giacomo Puccini, born in 1858, would have been much younger in the 1890s than the character played here by the 68-year-old Simon Callow. By the time he became King, Edward VII was nearly bald; Eddie Izzard shows him with a full head of hair. The representation of the film's central theme, the Victoria/Abdul relationship, however, seems to be relatively accurate.

    As with "Mrs Brown", one of the film's main themes is the loneliness of power. The two films explore the thesis that, having lost her beloved husband relatively early in life, Victoria needed to form intense, if platonic, friendships with other men to support her in her immense responsibilities. I didn't think that the film was quite as good as "Mrs Brown", if only because Fazal never makes him quite as strong an individual as Billy Connolly did with his portrayal of John Brown. Some of the supporting cast, Callow being the worst offender, tend to play their parts as caricatures. Probably the best is Izzard. Some have complained that his portrayal of the Prince of Wales as a bad-tempered bigot is at odds with the image of Edward VII as a well-loved monarch, but I have long suspected that, beneath the façade of avuncular geniality which his subjects saw "Bertie" was actually a rather unpleasant individual. Dench, however, lives up to her normal high standards, making Victoria a regal figure but also bringing a measure of both humour and pathos to her portrayal. She shows us the woman as well as the Queen. 6/10
  • James28 September 2017
    Not entirely without redeeming features, but often looking like a mean and ludicrous farce
    Warning: Spoilers
    This is a biopic about the great great grandmother of our present Queen ("The Queen" as far as Stephen Frears's earlier film starring Helen Mirren is concerned). It also features her great grandfather Edward VII, another real and in many ways important historical figure shown in such a non-positive light that it must be seen as a profoundly wrong and impertinent portrayal (unless what is shown here is really true, which seems far from plausible to the casual viewer).

    In fact, this film begins by declaring it is "mostly" telling a true story - in the context of a kind of jokey presentation style that scarcely inspires confidence. Indeed, at no time does this BBC offering directed by Frears really seek to inspire said confidence. Rather, it is cynically happy to spend half its time one step away from farce (albeit pointed and cruel farce), while parasitising on the well-known capacity of Dame Judi Dench to add gravitas and class to any role she takes on. This is indeed the case as Dench takes the heroine of our story through to her very deathbed of 1901, and to that epoch-making moment in the constant company of her real-life steadfast companion and Munshi (teacher) from Agra, Abdul Karim.

    Now this is clearly an amazing story, and - to be fair - Frears at no time strays from the remarkable truth that Victoria was truly a non-racist in an era of unthinking racism. Dench's portrayal of Her Majesty makes her a sympathetic and wise figure, even if she does get to utter a number of implausible-looking lines about how fed up of being Queen she really is, how lonely, how disappointed in her family, and indeed how self-loathing. Ali Fazal is the Moslem Karim, who comes to the rescue of his Empress, endlessly loyal, though also it seems plagued mercilessly by a sexually-transmitted disease! Does Her Majesty fancy him anyway, or is she just touched by his devotion and capacity to cut through the protocol to show real feeling? No stone is left unturned in this area, but it all remains pretty decorous and at times touching.

    In contrast, Frears has little mercy for the royal households at Windsor and the gorgeous Osborne House (Isle of Wight), or indeed for the aforementioned "Bertie" (the future Edward VII). The latter is portrayed very convincingly by Eddie Izzard in terms of looks, but far-from-plausibly in what the character says and does. When he meets Karim's fellow Indian servant, who has failed to make the same meteoric rise his colleague has managed and is now near death due to TB, he gets to hear an embittered and angry diatribe against the British Empire (you can just feel how much Frears loves every minute of that), before promising the would-be rebel that he is not going to make it out of the place alive! Did the future King really investigate such matters himself? Might he really be so angry and merciless and devious?

    Background reading makes it clear that a (surprisingly) great deal of what is shown in the film DID INDEED actually happen, or at least is very much in the spirit of what happened, so YET AGAIN we are left with a biopic showing real people doing (some) real things that very often fails to convince. And in this case quite a lot of the blame must be laid with Director Frears. Just for starters, he should follow the basic rule that - if one really insists on simplifying centuries of Empire involving countless millions of people down to a single cliché word or concept - it is necessary to choose between "evil" and "ridiculous" and not try hopelessly to suggest both at the same time! Likewise, comedy is comedy, farce is farce and a historical film is a historical film. Films do in fact have genres for a reason.

    As usual, a piece of this kind inspires a huge desire to read up further on its subject matter - which can only be a good thing. But it is also absurd in many ways that more pleasure and insight is gained from the reading than from the film inspiring that response in the first place!

    That said, Dame Judi really can do no wrong to my mind, and she does indeed achieve a pretty compelling portrayal of a monarch only now being revealed, not as a one-dimensional figure, but as someone who can be a genuine source of wonder in all her multi-stranded diversity.

    Perhaps that is reason enough to give "Victoria and Abdul" a watch, for all its imperfections?
  • Lala Hoohoo10 October 2017
    Dame Judi Reigns Supreme
    Her second portrayal of the former queen is just as enjoyable as the fist time and the bonus is that with this (and Mrs Brown) it's based on fact. Of course they had to twist it a bit but that was to give it the humorous spin. Bertie is played brilliantly too! There were so many fun things that Abdul and Mohammed were experiencing their first days in England that I can imagine would be a novelty to someone from a hotter climate. Truly charming story.
  • Sam Stevens14 September 2017
    Beautifully filmed, light hearted look at a serious issue
    An elderly Queen Victoria battles to keep an affable Indian clerk as her "Munshi", or teacher.

    Judy Dench gives another perfect performance as Queen Victoria- the first being 1997's Mrs Brown for which she received an Oscar nomination. Bollywood star Ali Fazal is completely believable as the young foreigner who brings light and laughter back into her life, and Eddie Izzard is amazing as the scheming Bertie, Prince of Wales.

    Stephen Frears directs this masterfully with beautiful cinematography, but I found the movie a little unsatisfying in that a very political issue- that of racism and exclusion- was a little downplayed.

    I would have liked to have seen how the changes of the Industrial Revolution had contributed to this xenophobia, and how our modern equivalent- whether you want to call it automation, the robot revolution, or just climate change- may be contributing to similar political movements today. Will we be able to explain Brexit, Trump's presidency, and the anti-immigration policies of Australia for instance, better in 100 years than we do now, do you think?

    So in summary, a good movie, not great, as it could have been had it been a little braver.
  • rannynm24 September 2017
    Mind-Boggling Story Revealing the Racism of the Times
    This incredible, historical film opened my eyes and made me better understand the world I live in. Given that racism is still a prevalent issue in today's society, it was mind-boggling to see it in Britain, at the turn of the 20th century. I admire how this film brings the past to the present, and made me question how racism can dissipate in the future.

    This film carefully documents the relationship between Queen Victoria and her beloved servant, Abdul Karim. Queen Victoria reigned in the United Kingdom from 1837 to 1901. She was the longest serving monarch in world history. In addition to being a queen, she was also the Empress of India. Because of this, Abdul Karim and his friend Mohammed are sent from India to Britain to deliver a sacred coin: the Mohur. Abdul and Mohammed believe they are only going to remain in Britain for a short period of time, but they end up going on the adventure of a lifetime.

    Judi Dench, who plays Queen Victoria, exceptionally portrays a queen who is tired of her constriction. All she wants to do is have Abdul be her full- time servant, but because of his origins, Queen Victoria's staff does not approve. Ali Fazal, who plays Abdul Karim, considers the queen a very special person and his kindness towards her is impeccable. He teaches her the Quran and shares his culture with her. As time goes on, both develop a strong friendship, which is truly heartwarming.

    The setting is remarkable. I've never seen the Taj Mahal, Scotland or the queen's palace. This film takes the audience to all these places. After seeing the beauty in other countries, it makes me want to travel the world. My favorite part of this film is when Queen Victoria eats with her staff. She eats very quickly and, once she finishes her food, regardless if the others are done or not, the servants take all of the food away. It's hilarious to see people still eating their meals and have their food taken away in the blink of an eye.

    The message of this film is that no race, culture or religion is subordinate to another, even though individuals are from many different backgrounds. Britain is usually portrayed as one of the most powerful countries, but not in this film. We have to learn to not categorize others as inferior because of their lifestyle. Differences make society beautiful. If we were all the same, everything would be boring.

    I give this film 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it to kids ages 15 to 18 as well as adults. There are undertones of adult subject matter throughout the film. Queen Victoria is infatuated with much a younger, married man, which is why an older audience is more suitable for it.

    Reviewed by Samantha M., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic.
  • three_fitty21 September 2017
    Brilliant - I haven't laughed so much during a film in ages.
    I wanted to see a different film, and was a reluctant viewer, but I'm so glad I got to watch this. The cinema was mostly empty, other films such as The Kingsman were fully booked. I can understand why, the plot didn't appeal to me and the cast seemed uninspiring. Its anything but.

    For the first hour or so, I was in tears of laughter and joy. Dame Judy Dench is as amazing as ever and seeing Eddie Izzard was a real treat, perfectly cast as the Queen's miserable son, but it was the actor who played Abdul, who brought the show to life. His relationship with Victoria wonderful and her rebirth from a dying queen a joy to watch. There's lots of political questions this film raises, such as racism, the class system, the British Empire, not to mention Old Age and how we help our Elders. The film doesn't deal with these directly and some of them are ignored all together, but then it doesn't need to. The relationship between Victoria and Abdul gives enough pause for thought, to see where the problems lay and the mistakes of our past.

    Go watch it. You won't regret it and just maybe you'll get to see a film, the rarest of rare that touches the soul. Beautiful.
  • Paul Evans17 March 2018
    Such a beautiful movie.
    The first thing anyone will say after watching this movie is how utterly amazing Judi Dench is, and rightly so, she ones again dons the robes of Queen Victoria and gives a commanding performance as one of the most famous monarchs. A performance worthy of an Oscar, she is an actress with unrivalled talent. This film is so much more then Dench's performance, spellbinding though it was.

    Ali Fazal, also worthy of accolades and awards, for his superb performance as Indian servant Abdul Karim. His performance is actually rather captivating, The Queen was taken under his spell and as a viewer so was I. Such an intriguing, fascinating character, probably unlike any other man she'd ever encountered.

    Superb production values throughout, the film was visually dazzling, sumptuous settings, jaw dropping costumes, this was a treat for the senses.

    A film is meant to move, and allow for escapism, when it can educate as well, it's worth of the elevated sore of 10/10.

    Absolutely loved it.
  • Neil Welch8 May 2018
    Slight, but impressive
    Warning: Spoilers
    Abdul Karim and a colleague are imported from India to make a presentation to Queen Victoria. Long after Prince Albert and her friend John Brown died, the Queen is old, tired, depressed and bored, and the introduction of the Indian piques her interest: he becomes a Court favourite to the consternation and annoyance of her Head of Household, the Prime Minster, and her son and first in line for the throne. The film tells of their relationship and the background politicking against Karim up to Victoria's death and Karim's return to India.

    This film is, in many ways, a sequel to Mrs Brown, Judi Dench's 1997 first entry as Queen Victoria and, in some respects, treads similar ground as regards a friendship regarded by some as "inappropriate." This one is quite funny - the audience was frequently chuckling.

    The script is good and the cast are excellent with, of course Dench on particularly good form as the aged monarch. The story is true - "mostly", as it says at the start - and, if so, the behaviour of certain individuals after Victoria's death is reprehensible.

    Showings at my local (Isle of Wight) cinema were packed, what with location filming taking place at Victoria's holiday hideaway at Osborne House on the Island, and reactions from the mostly elderly audience were very positive. And I enjoyed it very much despite it not being my type of film.
  • michael-young-5858 March 2018
    Dench is Terrific
    Judi Dench runs away with this movie. In fact, she hits the ball so far out of the pack, that the rest of the actors are left with little more than eating dust. It seems that I enjoy her performance in every movie I've seen her in, whether its strong British characters (in movies like the James Bond Skyfall, or as Queen Victoria in this movie) or introspective people with pasts to reconcile (as in Philomena, or The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel). She seems to personify the older British woman, bound by tradition, but bursting with inner feelings. Although nominated for acting Oscars seven times, she won only once, for a supporting role in Shakespeare in Love in 1999.

    Why she wasn't nominated for this movie, I don't know. I haven't seen any of the other female-actress-nominated movies, but find it difficult to imagine superior performances. Instead, it was nominated in two, below-the-line, categories - Costumes, and Makeup. And I have to confess, up-front, that I have some difficulty with these two categories. My complaints center around the fact that these nominees almost always play on the overly conservative side of things. Instead of rewarding the creativity that comes with designing clothing for major science fiction and fantasy movies, like Star Trek or Guardians of the Galaxy, the nominees in these categories tend to the period piece movies, or as is the case too frequently with the Makeup and Hairstyling category, with movies that are simply insults to the intelligence of the average viewer (I think specifically of the 100 Year Old Man Who.... from a couple years ago where the 'makeup' centered largely around a scrotum and testicles that hung so low they nearly dragged on the floor.)

    The makeup in this movie isn't that disgusting, and the wigs and facial makeup for, especially, the members of the British royal family, are convincingly done and add to the fun of the movie. And the costumes are all perfectly appropriate for the Victorian age. So I suppose the movie deserves the spotlight in those two categories, although it didn't win an Oscar in either.

    Victoria & Abdul is the story, 'mostly' based on fact, of the friendship that develops between Queen Victoria and a Muslim from India. As unlikely as that sounds, it apparently occurred in the few years before her death and caused quite a scandal within the royal family as the influence of a Muslim wasn't considered at all appropriate in Britain at that time (or now either?). The movie starts as a sort of comedy with the juxtaposition of the Queen's highly formal lifestyle with the care-free life of a low-level prison clerk from India. The improbable circumstances of how he meets the queen, are definitely the stuff of situation comedy. And Dench's remarkably adept portrayal of the banalities of queenly formalism is the straight-man to Abdul's devilish grin and refusal to obey even the simple rule of 'Don't look at the Queen!'

    But he does look at the queen, and her eyes catch his. In the next moment the delightfully droll octogenarian is commenting about how handsome he is and arranges to have him become more involved, platonically, with her. Eventually, he becomes her "munshee" which is sort of a Muslim spiritual teacher. In addition to teaching her Urdu and basics of the Koran, he succeeds in bringing out her spirit and enriches her final days. All of this occurs while the Queen's family and staff remain quite properly aghast at what is a consuming scandal.

    The comedic aspect of this movie, however, can't be sustained and I don't think the transition to the real drama of the relationship succeeds very well. Part of that might be the writing. Lee Hall wrote the screenplay based on a book by Shrabani Bass. Hall was nominated previously for his adapted screenplay of Billy Elliott, but I don't recognize any of his other credits. And the director, Stephen Frears, was nominated for The Queen in 2008, and The Grifters in 1991, and also directed Philomena, Dangerous Liasons, and Dirty Pretty Things. Unfortunately, this movie does not live up to some of his better work.

    The reason, I suspect, is that, like so many movies with just one or two nominations, this movie lacks balance. Ok, the costumes and makeup is terrific, and Judi Dench is nearly outstanding, but that's about all this movie has to offer.

    It would have helped, I think, if Ms. Dench had a better actor to work with her. Abdul is played by Ali Fazal, who is best known for a smaller role in Furious 7 and roles in Bollywood movies and television, but no real presence on Western screens. That he is tall and good looking is a given, but he is not a tier 1 actor. As a result, his interactions with Dench appear stiff at times and contrived. Frequently it is difficult to tell whether he is trying, maybe a little too hard, to be funny or is expressing a more serious moment. Dench deserves a stronger partner.

    Although far from a perfect movie, it is still fun to watch. Judi Dench's performance is worth the time, and, especially in today's age of religious and ethnic prejudices, it is encouraging to see a story like this one which at least attempts to portray the power and significance of human relationships. The Queen does die a happier woman because of Abdul.

    Recommended for Dench's acting, costumes and makeup, and a lighthearted, warming story.
  • Kirpianuscus23 September 2017
    I admit, I am a fan of Dame Judi Dench. and this was one of the basic motives for see the film. the second motif - Victoria trend. the last decade rediscovers her significant presence in modern history and the versions about her life are, each by each, useful. not the last- the sentimental existence of the Queen Victoria was always a seductive theme.

    the film is a large garden of states. emotion, smile, sadness, wise advises, a relation who seems have the traits of maternal and teacher -student air. and great performances. especially Ali Fazal who, for me, is a splendid revelation about the build of a role far to be the most comfortable. in same measure, Eddie Izzard, as a real credible Bertie. a film about a rich friendship lesson. rich for the nuances and for the

    art of actors, for the admirable script and for the atmosphere. and, sure, for the meet of youth of a man who seems ignore the rules and the last part of life of a woman out of expectations from the long same measure, a tolerance lesson/pledge.with crumbs of to obvious political correctness and ignore of historical accuracy.

    so, a gift. who has not only the virtue to be a nice film but tool /support for new perspectives about own ordinary life.
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