FILM REVIEW
VICTORIA AND ABDUL
Rated PG-13
112 Minutes
Released September 22
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The movie is a story of a unique friendship on an intimate level rather than a panoramic epic in style. It would have made a good mini-series.

However director Stephen Frears’ efforts to create a realistic background give this film a valuable historical backdrop. Most of the locations are the actual estates where the history of Victoria and Abdul played out at the turn of the last century.

Real locations used include the Scottish Highlanfs, Osborne House, Queen Victoria’s summer abode at Osborne House, Ham House in Surrey, Windsor Castle and others. Abdul’s India is also filmed realistically, including a beautiful scene at the end of the film near the Taj Mahal, the area of his childhood home.

Historically this film has great value, as this story had been removed from authorized accounts of Queen Victoria’s life. Shrabani Basu, the author of the book on which the film is based, stumbled upon the history by accident while researching a book on Indian curry in 2006.

The performances are the strength of this film. Ali Fazal, who plays “Abdul,” went through a two-month audition process to win the role. He knew nothing of the story before he was cast.

He did extensive research on Abdul, reviewing his journals and photos. Fazal plays the “innocent” beautifully. The Queen, also an innocent due to her sheltered upbringing, identifies with Abdul.

Dame Judi Dench, as always, portrays Victoria with great color and realism.

She does not shy away from depicting the physical malaise and mental depression that the queen had fallen into after her husband’s death. Dench reflects the nuances of change in Victoria’s demeanor and physicality after she begins her relationship with Abdul as her spiritual coach. In reality, neither Dench nor Fazal knew about Abdul’s teachings, so they learned them together, actually living the story.
The movie might have played better had there been less detail about Abdul’s appointment to bring a commemorative coin to the queen, and more about his background in India. I felt the same about scenes depicting Queen Victoria’s personality.

One great scene where she is dozing off and cantankerous at a state dinner in front of dozens of annoyed members of the court, should have been followed up with more glimpses into her personality and how her eating habits and outlook improve after she begins her friendship with Abdul.

This film is very timely in light of today’s worldwide political framework. It presents the difference between an unschooled optimist who perceives the world on a panoramic level, against the petty machinations of courtiers who believe they are superior, yet spend each day fighting to wrest power from one another. In Queen Victoria’s time, staff and relatives apparently thought of her as a “crazy old lady.” However this film will show you that the truth was probably far from that assessment.

Kathryn Whitney Boole has spent most of her life in the entertainment industry, which is the backdrop for remarkable adventures with extraordinary people. She is a Talent Manager with Studio Talent Group in Santa Monica. kboole@gmail.com. For previously published reviews see https://kwboole.wordpress.com

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