“Victoria & Abdul” moved from the page (the movie is adapted from a novel of the same name) to the screen elegantly and with little to no fan fare this past weekend. Overshadowed by the big blockbuster that is “Blade Runner 2049” this movie invites us back to the time in history when Britain still was a vast empire, Queen Victoria ruling over close to a billion people on several continents. “Victoria & Abdul” lets us peer through the window into the last few years of the illustrious Queens reign and the friendship that grew between her and an Indian servant. Abdul (Ali Fazal, “Furious 7“) is chosen to leave his motherland to voyage to England in order to deliver a very special gift to the Empress of India, Queen Victoria (Dame Judi Dench, “Tulip Fever“, “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides“). Along with another man chosen to be his partner,Mohammed (Adeel Akhtar, “Ghosted“, “The Big Sick“), Abdul sets out on his big adventure, but has no idea how much his life is about to change. While delivering the gift he was to present to the Queen their eyes meet (he had been strictly told not to look her in the eye by the way) and an almost immediate connection was made. Abdul and by proxy Mohammed soon become the Queens personal servants and just as quickly Abdul becomes more than that he becomes the Queens spiritual advisor. Victoria feeling the weight of the world as well as her age soon begins confiding in the young man and asks him to tutor her in the language, customs and the religions of India. A beautiful friendship developes between the aging monarch and the Indian peasant that does not sit well with the rest of the royal house especially Victoria’s son, Bertie (Eddie Izzard, “The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian“. “Hannibal“). Will the royal house get its way? Or will Abdul and Victoria’s relationship survive all the subterfuge?
“Victoria & Abdul“, a story that had remained untold until just recently, is a spectacular film with a heart and soul unlike many others I have seen. The beautiful love story between the isolated and lonely Queen and her young Munshee (spiritual advisor) is absolutely endearing. The friendship starts from nothing and builds into a mother/son dynamic with such grace and a little humor too. Surely this film and its magnificent story would not have tugged on my heart-strings as hard if it had not been for the wonderful cast and in particular Ali Fazal. It is a forgone conclusion in my mind that Dame Judi Dench will always deliver an amazing performance, but Ali Fazal steals the show from even the awe-inspiring Dame Dench. His portrayal is so effortless and emotion provoking that ,though I have a feeling this movie will get overlooked during award season, he deserves accolades showered upon him. “Victoria & Abdul’s” cast, including the supporting actors as well, brings this sweet story too long in the shadows to light with sincere conviction and some very British humor. Paired with the outstanding cast is the breathtaking scenery and set design, which in and of itself would make “Victoria & Abdul” a must see. The entire film is well crafted and executed with a very keen eye, all of this combines together to have given us an outstanding film with just enough laughter to break up the highly emotional love story between these two unlikely soul mates.
“Victoria & Abdul” is a cinematic gem that seems to be predestined to stay hidden behind all the bright shiny Hollywood blockbusters, but if you are looking for a well made, heart filled , unique love story then I highly suggest you voyage out to the theaters to see “Victoria & Abdul”