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  • Writer's pictureGuy Jeffries

Victoria & Abdul

Director: Stephen Frears.

Frears give us yet another interesting and possibly controversial period drama that's based on the titular novel, by Shrabani Basu, about the relationship between Queen Victoria and her Munshi, Abdul Karim. Concentrating on their blossoming relationship leading to scandalous speculation that Mr. Karim was another Mr. Brown.

Queen Victoria has always been a favourite royal of mine, having such an enriched life story from her moment of becoming Queen, her love for her husband Prince Albert and the years after his death which she spent mostly in mourning, wearing black forever after. But during these final years, she became close to a couple of friends, even favouring them over her supposedly greedy and aristocratic family. One of whom was Abdul Karim, an Indian servant brought over from the subcontinent to present the Queen with a coin on her golden jubilee in 1887 and ends up becoming a favoured servant, staying with her immediate entourage for 15yrs, earning him promotion after promotion whilst teaching the aging and still mourning Queen about his homeland, India and the Urdu language.

This arrangement obviously inflicts racial ramifications, upsetting the entirely royal household, both family and close officials pitting both the Queen and Mr Karim in often difficult and awkward situations as the rest of the establishment constantly disapprove and deter their relationship. However, she is the Queen, and her majesty is not discouraged easily and appears to be ruled by the heart turning this arrangement into a troublesome yet touching story.

Twenty years on, Dame Judi Dench's portrays Queen Victoria for the second time making me believe this to be a sequel to John Madden's Mrs. Brown. John Brown being the other favoured servant who helped Queen Victoria during her mourning with her loss of Albert. A film I am particularly fond of and strongly suggest watching if you haven't already. This certainly makes me want to revisit the 1997 film that got Dench an Oscar nomination for her performance.

Dench, as with Mrs. Brown, is utterly brilliant, unsurprisingly so. Her presence demands such attention and her command of the character is incredible. Though it does feel like she takes majority of the story, making it unbalanced with Fazal's part, who is good as Abdul Karim but is definitely outshone by Dench. There was something lacking from his character and I want to say passion but I'm not so sure.

There's a strong supporting cast who are all good, especially Izzard playing Bertie, Prince Edward, her eldest. Higgins as the frustrated short tempered Dr. Jones and sadly, the late Pigott-Smith's in his last role as Major-General Henry Ponsonby, the Queen's private secretary, all of whom devise ways of sabotaging the relationship.

Frears is no stranger to such dramas having directed films such as The Queen, Dangerous Liaisons and last year's Florence Foster Jenkins. It's nothing more than a period shot well. There's no fancy takes and artistic long sequences and instead focuses purely on the drama element of the story. Though there is a grand sense of authenticity being mostly shot on location, especially Osbourne House, however I noticed The Painted Hall at Greenwich acting as the banquet hall at Windsor Castle. Costumes were stunning immersing you into the era and have been on display for limited period at Osbourne House to celebrate the release of the film.

I would normally hear Thomas Newman a mile away and would have definitely said it was him if I wasn't thrown off by the strong Asian influence. Something I was not use to coming from Newman but it does make it suitable and lovely score for the film.

Sadly, whilst the story is interesting and seldom boring, the film can be rather dull and lacks any great emotion which should have been expected, however it has inspired me to want to pay a visit to Osbourne House on the Isle of Wight and to rewatch Mrs. Brown. It is a must for royalist fans.

Running Time: 6

The Cast: 8

Performance: 8

Direction: 8

Story: 7

Script: 7

Creativity: 8

Soundtrack: 7

Job Description: 5

The Extra Bonus Point: 0

64% 6/10

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