TIFF 2017 Review: “Victoria & Abdul” A Tale of an Unlikely Friendship
Victoria & Abdul tells the story of an unlikely friendship between Queen Victoria in her later years, and an Indian servant turned spiritual advisor and teacher, Abdul (Ali Fazal). Abdul Karim was living his life in India until one day; they asked him to go to England to present a ceremonial coin to the Empress of India, Queen Victoria. He was pleased and honored to make the journey. Not as excited Mohammed (Adeel Akhtar) is picked to join him on this voyage. Queen Victoria took a liking to Abdul and decided to keep him around her as her right-hand man. As she learned more about India and the culture from Abdul, she asked him to become her Munshi (her teacher). Their friendship grew and grew, despite the disapproval from the household and her son Bertie, Prince of Wales (Eddie Izzard).
Victoria & Abdul is a feel-good film about crossing cultural lines and a friendship that defied the odds. The film manages to be both sweet and very funny at points but also touch upon issues of cultural clashes and racism. Each moment between Victoria and Abdul is filled with love and tenderness that is lacking from her life otherwise. You can see how the monarch would’ve valued a friend such as Abdul in her final days.
Judy Dench as Queen Victoria is spectacularly stunning. Each scene with her is a treat. You don’t know whether she will be funny, mean, or endearing and that is the magic of her performance. Ali Fazal as Abdul is perfect. He embodies a sense of warmth and love that shines in his performance. Their chemistry together is superb and electrifying. You can’t look away whenever they together. It isn’t a story that you often hear but one that certainly will work its way into your heart.
The costume design should be noted. The costumes that Abdul wears once he stays with the queen are stunning. The beading, colors, and fabrics are dazzling. The set design is equally as beautiful, particularly the room in the castle where Queen Victoria kept a tribute to India. The peacock chair and the tapestries were magnificent.
The writing in the film is particularly beautiful with little bits that really get you thinking along the way. When Victoria breaks down and cries asking why she’s there, Abdul replies with “we are not here to worry about ourselves.” The moment is touching and really gives the audience a moment to be self-reflective as well. Each scene is filled with beautiful moments written so well. Abdul’s words just inspire and warm the hearts of the audience.
Victoria & Abdul is a heartwarming tale of the love between two of the most unlikely of friends, reminding us that we can learn from one another, despite our cultural differences. Let Victoria & Abdul in, and it will warm your heart and reignite your faith in humanity.