Victoria and Abdul tells the fascinating true story of one of the most unlikely friendships in history. In the later years of her rule, Queen Victoria (Judi Dench) finds an unexpected companionship with Abdul Karim (Ali Fazal), a humble servant from India. The two forge a devoted alliance and heart-warming loyalty to one another, but it is met with fierce opposition from the Queen’s inner circle. As their friendship deepens, several attempts are made to destroy it by those closest to her, and is consequently the reason behind why these events became hidden in history for such a long time.
It is an incredibly uplifting story and may not be what you expect at all. There is element of humour throughout with witty performances from Academy Award winner Judi Dench, Ali Fazal, Eddie Izzard and Michael Gambon. The friendship between Queen Victoria and her servant is so unusual especially in those times, which is what makes it such an interesting story.
Abdul gives the Queen an opportunity to see the world in a completely different way, teaching her his language and about life in India. Through him, Queen Victoria is able to learn about a culture no-one else around her possibly could, allowing her to also reclaim her humanity.
Victoria and Abdul is beautifully shot. Director Stephen Frears uses some fantastic camera shots and editing to make the actors appear perfectly in sequence with the soundtrack. Judi Dench and Ali Fazal also have fantastic on screen chemistry. The friendship between the two characters appears honest and genuine, making it very pleasant to watch.
Dench gives a very strong performance as Queen Victoria, portraying her character with many different layers. On one hand, she is the fierce ruler who is spoilt, greedy and rude, however on the other hand there is a very different side to her, brought out by her blossoming friendship with Abdul. It is through this friendship that the audience see a much softer side to the Queen, someone who is in fact quite vulnerable.
She confides in him about her loneliness, about missing loved ones who have passed and her desire to dance again. Victoria and Abdul brings to life a side of Queen Victoria and part of history that has been missing from the history books.
Ali Fazal’s portrayal of the humble Indian servant is also favourable and worth mentioning, although Dench’s terrific performance means it does go slightly overshadowed. The character’s positive and enthusiastic outlook on life, despite his low ranking status, is quite inspirational.
Throughout the narrative Victoria and Abdul’s friendship faces hurdle after hurdle. A bond between a Queen and a servant from India seems too much to stomach for everyone around them. Cruel plans are devised by the Queen’s inner circle to sabotage the friendship and have Abdul sent back to India. But their great on screen chemistry means that the audience will be rooting for them all the way. The characters appear to genuinely care for one another, and so you will find yourself wanting their friendship to work and withstand everything that goes against it.
Victoria and Abdul will no doubted be loved by every history boffin. But I also strongly encourage those who aren’t to also give this film a chance. This film may surprise you, you may even watch it twice.
Dir: Stephen Frears
Prd: Tim Bevan
Scr: Lee Hall
Starring: Judi Dench, Ali Fazal, Eddie Izzard, Michael Gambon
Music by: Thomas Newman
Victoria and Abdul is available on Blu-ray and DVD from 22nd January.