Victoria & Abdul

Victoria & Abdul (Stephen Frears, 2017) wr. Lee Hall [I would write the title with 'and', but see it everywhere with ampersand.] Judi Dench, Ali Fazal, Tim Pigott-Smith, Eddie Izzard, Michael Gambon, Fenella Woolgar; Queen Victoria strikes up an unlikely friendship with a young Indian clerk named Abdul Karim.

Great entertainment, but with a great (in the other sense) performance from Dame Judi, who can play a part like this in her sleep (and in fact does act that once or twice).

Susan Wloszczyna:
The costumes, the gorgeous real-life settings and interiors, the just-right lighting, the music—all technical aspects are handled precisely. But if there is a problem with Victoria & Abdul, it exists within the imbalance between the movie’s titular twosome. While Fazal is well suited for his role physically and acquits himself as best as he can, there is no way he can come close to keeping up with Dench in the acting department. It is as if a cloud is pitted against a boulder. Susan Wloszczyna,

Glen Kenny:
In the shift from comedy to drama the movie goes wobbly. The narrative of cross-cultural understanding by way of individual affinity is a comforting but ultimately dubious one. The notion of Queen Victoria as the most progressive figure of the Victorian age is also peculiar. But this is a handsomely packaged collection of such notions, and will provide genteel entertainment to those of a mind to swallow them. Glen Kenny, NY Times.

Stephen Frears has managed the change of tones throughout with ease, as the film slides from frivolity to drama, from historic to histrionic. But the royal performance by Judi Dench as Queen Victoria is the crowning glory of the film, closely followed by Ali Fazal as Abdul, a cheerful performance that endears Abdul to us, fascinates us and makes us care. ...
The two of them make this a buddy movie that is not too far in mood from of The Intouchables (2011), where coloured servant becomes trusted companion to white principal, sharing laughs and tears along the way. In this case the class divide is even greater, and the Royal household is mightily miffed, unable to cope with the Queen's disregard for what can be now seen as their racist and classist attitudes. But that was before the 19th century became the 20th.

Garry Gillard | reviews | New: 4 December, 2017 | Now: 22 August, 2022