Man, am I sucker for a good period flick. Just put the actors in fancy costumes, turn the clock back at least 50 years and you can almost guarantee I’ll buy a ticket. In my opinion, the best period movies come out of England and they’ve been knocking it out the park for years. Opening this Friday is the latest release from Focus Features, Victoria & Abdul, and I was lucky enough to attend a sneak preview.
Victoria & Abdul, based on the book of the same name, is about the true life friendship between Queen Victoria and Abdul Karim. To celebrate the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Karim, played by Ali Fazal, has been chosen to travel from India to England to present a special gift to Her Majesty, played by Dame Judi Dench (reprising her role from Mrs. Brown). At this brief encounter the queen is taken with the servant and requests his further company. A strong friendship is then formed and Karim teaches Victoria much about the language and culture of his native land. Though their bond is strong they face continued threats from the Queen’s son, played by Eddie Izzard, and support staff who see Karim only as an outsider threatening their comfortable existence.
Victoria & Abdul, directed by Stephen Frears, is a beautiful film that provides a fascinating glimpse into an almost forgotten phase of British history. Faithfully shot on location throughout the region it captures the landscape beautifully and serves as a metaphorical time machine back to the Victorian era. In addition, the actors are superbly cast. Judi Dench, what can I say? She’s pitch perfect as always and re-inhabits the role of Queen Victoria with ease. Ali Fazal, previously unknown to me, is also wonderful as the faithful Karim whose devotion to the queen is unmatched and little understood by those around him. A strong supporting cast includes the before mentioned Izzard, who’s wonderfully pompous as Bertie, Adeel Akhtar, Fenella Woolgar, Olivia Williams, Michael Gambon and the late Tim Pigott-Smith.
Victoria & Abdul is a true delight and well worth viewing. It should especially be seen on the big screen where the beautiful landscapes can be fully enjoyed. It opens in Los Angeles on Friday, September 22 and expands throughout the country in the weeks following.