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Review by Adam Turnbull
Victoria and Abdul makes a startling change from other, rather dull and rigid costume dramas, as it is littered with witty humour.
The film is directed by the brilliant Stephen Frears, who is in some ways making a kind of sequel to the film Mrs Brown,which is about the faithful Scottish servant John Brown, played by Billy Connolly who acted alongside Judi Dench. Dench is now reprising her role as Queen Victoria. This film is about the last days of Queen Victoria, who – still mourning the death of Albert – is slowly fading away in Osborne house, while the British Empire is tottering to its knees.
An envoy comes from India in the form of an Indian clerk Abdul, played by Ali Fazal, whose performance is great. Abdul is sent to England after Victoria is proclaimed Empress of India. While he gives her an award, he catches her eye, marking the beginning of their great friendship, which would be one of Queen Victoria’s great last romances. There is tension, however, between the Queen and Bertie, her son (the stubborn Prince of Wales) – who is played fantastically by the great Eddie Izzard. Michael Gambon plays the puritanical Prime Minister successfully. The last of all these great actors is Judi Dench, who reigns supreme as Monarch. Even as she fades away slowly throughout the film, she begins to show her past younger self through her relationship with Abdul, although we also get a glimpse into the more austere and bad tempered side of Queen Victoria. Judi Dench shows these facets of Victoria’s nature beautifully.
Throughout the film, Victoria becomes interested in Indian culture as her friendship with Abdul deepens, even though (despite being the Empress of India) she has never actually been there. Despite the fact that India is still enslaved by the now crumbling British empire, Abdul and Victoria’s romance shows that there is hope for India to be free, and for the two countries to have a better relationship after Victoria’s Death.
The film is a crowd pleaser, offering much more than its trailer suggests, and is worth seeing, even by those who think it is not their sort of thing.