The film claims that this is a true story…”mostly,” which immediately begs the question of how much of this story was made up for the big screen.
The film tells of the unlikely friendship between Queen Victoria of England (Judi Dench) and an Indian man Abdul Karim (Ali Fazal)whom started as a servant for her and ended her “Munshi” (teacher), and the hullabaloo this relationship brought about among the royal family and the other servants of the Royal family.
The film is, once again, a master class performance from the wonderful Judi Dench. She so much to the historical figure of Queen Victoria in a simple, yet impressively complex way. In just a few scenes, I understood completely why she became so platonicly smitten with the Indian clerk and why his arrival took her from someone who had to be helped from bed in the morning to someone who was figuratively embracing life with both hands. The power of her subtle performance was amazing to watch and it reminds you of how great this woman truly is.
Ali Fazal was a good scene partner, but, to be honest, he did not reach the same level of excellence as Dench did. Part of the reason stems from the character of Abdul not being as fully fleshed out as Victoria. I was never quite sure why he was so loyal to the Queen or why he was willing to do everything that he did for her.
Because of that lack of a second side, I found the film fairly fluffy. Instead of taking a potentially powerful story and going for it, the film seemed to play it safe with the controversial relationship and made much of the tone of the film comedic. Deeper ideas were touch upon but were never supported or expanded upon.
And that is not a bad thing. The film is completely watchable and enjoyable as is. It did not need to be a deeper film and it absolutely can exist as a saccharine film. I just felt as if there were opportunities to take this and explore some of the racial issues of the time in a deeper manner than which the film did. I mean, it is there, but the context is very subtle.
Victoria & Abdul is a lightweight biopic featured around a relationship that the Royal Family had attempted to hide from the world after the death of the Queen. Some information was found in one of Victoria’s summer homes over 100 years later and that led to a book entitled, Victoria & Abdul: The True Story of the Queen’s Closest Confidant to be written. Judi Dench brings everything to this film and her second portrayal of Queen Victoria is worth seeing. Unfortunately, this is a generally forgettable film.