Movie Review: ‘Victoria & Abdul’


Director: Stephen Frears

Cast: Judi Dench, Ali Fazal, Eddie Izzard, Tim Pigott-Smith, Adeel Akhtar, Michael Gambon

Plot: Queen Victoria, during the closing years of her reign, develops a close relationship with her Indian servant Abdul Karim to the horror of those around her.

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Review: This movie can very much be thought of as a ‘prestige picture’. Every aspect of the production feels like a gourmet selection of film making talent. Stephen Frears is one of the most accomplished English directors working and Dame Judi Dench plays period piece royalty on an Olympic level.

Victoria & Adbul, which explores the relationship between Queen Victoria (Dench) and her Indian servant Abdul Karim (Fazal) makes a great companion piece to 1997 film Mrs Brown (Her Majesty Mrs Brown in some regions) in which Dench plays Queen Victoria and delves into her relationship with Scottish servant John Brown. Both films explore the loneliness of the role, the confining public perception of royalty and wrap the stories up in a deft and terribly dry sense of humour.

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As you would expect the phenomenal Dame Judi Dench is the real draw card. She is nothing short of delightful in the role, and is clearly enjoying herself immensely. She’s funny yet dignified and adds layers of humanity to someone perceived to be a stuffy figure. Dench’s performance is matched by the production design. The visuals are rich and detailed with uncountable hours being poured into recreating the era and costumes.

What Victoria & Abdul fails to do is cast out a line for new viewers. There’s a built in audience for period pieces starring Dame Judi Dench, and they’re well catered to, but the film shows no interest in appealing to anyone else. Given the avalanche of blockbusters fighting for audiences this year perhaps it’s the right move, but the film does wind up feeling disinterest in experimenting or pushing boundaries. 

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If you’ve seen the trailer you know whether or not this movie is for you. If it is, get yourself in to see it and enjoy!

Rating: SEVEN out of TEN

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