Victoria & Abdul is the story of the unlikely friendship between the elderly Queen Victoria and Abdul Karim, an Indian attendant who quickly rose through the ranks and eventually became her “Munshi” or spiritual teacher.
The story begins as Abdul is selected to present Queen Victoria with a Mohur coin in her Golden Jubilee year of 1887, simply because he is the tallest man they could find. They make eye contact despite Abdul being specifically instructed not to make eye contact. Judi Dench is brilliant in reprising her role as Queen Victoria (she previously played the Queen in Mrs Brown) and Ali Fazal shines as Abdul. As their friendship becomes public, the Royal household is up in arms, as they consider Abdul to be beneath them. Eddie Lizard is a wide-eyed and angry Prince of Wales, while his wife is notably missing. The only other royal women feature in an awkward tea party with Queen Victoria, and Abdul’s wife and mother-in-law, who are completely covered by a burqa and Queen Victoria introduces her daughter Helena, her granddaughter Sophia of Prussia and a Grand Duchess Sophie of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach, which could be Sophie of Netherlands. Some nameless ladies-in-waiting hang around her most times.
The most touching part is when Victoria and Abdul are alone, and she tearfully says, “Everyone I have loved has died, and I just go on and on.” It’s truly heartbreaking. It really is a lovely look into the complicated life of Queen Victoria, she could be ruthless, but she could be loving also.
The only downside of the movie is the fact that the timing doesn’t seem to add to the real-life story. In reality, Abdul was with her from 1887 until her death but time hardly seems to pass in the movie and no one ages 14 years.
Overall, I’d highly recommend Victoria & Abdul, if only to see the amazing Judi Dench reprise her role as the Queen.