Abdul Karim (Ali Fazal) arrives from India to participate in Queen Victoria's (Dame Judi Dench's) golden jubilee. The young clerk is surprised to find favor with the Queen. As Victoria questions the constrictions of her long-held position, the two forge an unlikely and devoted alliance that her household and inner circle try to destroy. As their friendship deepens, the Queen begins to see a changing world through new eyes, joyfully reclaiming her humanity.
In the beginning, when Abdul is called to the governor's office, a world map hanging on the wall behind the desk shows the British Empire. The map is from 1915 and doesn't reflect the empire's territorial extent in 1887, when the scene takes place. See more »
I am cantankerous, greedy, fat, I am perhaps disagreeably attached to power, but I am anything but insane!
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Begins with text that says it is "Based on real events... mostly". See more »
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.
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