Stories of uncanny friendship are important. "Victoria & Abdul" has beautiful moments, but it consistently falls short. There is only one time where we are sort of surprised by the story, but the other 99% of the film the antagonists do little to throw off the inevitability of the story. Too predictable, sort of awkward, and lacking development.
Victoria & Abdul
Victoria & Abdul
Judi Dench and some sweet costumes; that's all.
Reviewed By: Steven Siwek
DVD or Streaming >27in
What was the plan for this film if Judi Dench wouldn't have joined? Seriously. It's not a movie without her. She at least makes the film somewhat believeable, almost dynamic, and just good enough to finish thanks to her portrayal of "Queen Victoria". Ali Fazal who plays "Abdul Karim" does a good job, but I was always nervous watching his performance thinking he might suddenly fall in love with the 81 year-old Queen. I couldn't tell if that was the director's note to him or just how he felt the character should be portrayed. Either way, it was usually unsettling. Essentially the entire rest of the cast is completely one-dimensional, never overcoming their bigotry nor developing as characters. They are so far behind the development of our lead characters that I never feel connected to the tension of the story.
This movie did not need cursing to tell its story. I'm usually not very passionate about that, but this film had so much unnecessary cursing. It's not for kids even though they could've made the material suitable for children thanks to a powerful theme of friendship and diversity in friendship. Missed opportunity.
It's so basic and formulaic. I missed the magic of a theme that connected me to "friendship". I also felt there could've been more Indian tones/sounds throughout and/or a clashing of sounds British vs. Indian, but it felt so safe.
The premise of this film is that "Abdul" is to travel to England to deliver "Queen Victoria" a Mohur, a symbolic coin. After he does that the movie should be over, which would mean this movie would be 7-9 minutes long. Perfect. The development of their friendship is at times beautiful, but the film feels laborious, essentially saying the same thing but in different ways for the remaining 90 minutes. I like that this is a true story, but that doesn't save it from determining whether the script can work or not. For me, it just doesn't come through.
Lots of camera angles and handheld camerawork that threw off the storytelling. A few CGI moments hurt me. Besides those elements, the costumes, locations, and sets were excellent.
No need for me to watch this again. It needed more work in order to be made into a feature-length film. The first 5-10 minutes is really good and compelling, but it falls off so hard.