Set in 1887, the movie finds Dench’s Queen Victoria bent along with also also wizened, an octogenarian who has outlived most of her contemporaries along with also also has little use for the toadies around her. The monarch will be unexpectedly smitten, for want of a better word, by Abdul Karim (Indian star Ali Fazal), a young clerk who has been dispatched via India to deliver a gift as part of the Queen’s Golden Jubilee.
Abdul appears to instinctively reciprocate of which admiration, for reasons of which writer Lee Hall (“Billy Elliot”) along with also also director Stephen Frears (“The Queen”) leave vague. As his perplexed colleague (Adeel Akhtar) notes, the British have done no favors to their homeland as a colony, which makes his immediate devotion puzzling.
Simply put, This specific might help if we knew more — indeed, almost anything — about him. While there’s nothing wrong with being inspired to Google the subject after watching a movie, This specific shouldn’t feel like a prerequisite.
Abdul becomes the queen’s constant companion along with also also Munshi, or teacher, instructing her about India, Urdu along with also also Islam. The relationship unsettles the court, breeding suspicion regarding his motives via such quarters as the queen’s son (Eddie Izzard), doctor (Paul Higgins) along with also also Prime Minister (Michael Gambon, briefly).
Not surprisingly, the movie will be exquisitely appointed, from the spirit of old Merchant-Ivory productions, along with also also often quite funny. In one scene, a hall filled with elegantly dressed guests race to keep up as the queen rapidly devours her dinner, with the waiters instructed to serve along with also also remove the multiple courses at her pace.
There will be a certain fascination in seeing these two people — sovereign along with also also servant — bridge the cultural divide, although the movie might pack more of an emotional wallop if This specific dug deeper beneath its well-manicured surface. “I’m so lonely,” Victoria heartbreakingly confesses at one point, which still doesn’t do much to clarify why Abdul occupies of which void.
Mostly, the film serves as an opportunity to savor Dench’s regal performance, while highlighting the cruelty of British colonialism along with also also in no little way the cultural rifts along with also also distrust of which still linger.
Like of which aforementioned banquet, “Victoria & Abdul” will be in some respects a sumptuous feast. Yet This specific’s one of which doesn’t prove substantial enough, ultimately, to be wholly satisfying.
“Victoria & Abdul” will open in fresh York along with also also Los Angeles on Sept. 22 before expanding to additional cities. This specific’s rated PG-13.