Queen Victoria strikes up an unlikely friendship with a young Indian clerk named Abdul Karim.
From the beginning, something seems a bit off in the palace of Queen Victoria. It is not just in her dull, routine, even predictable life. A strange pace seems to befuddle even the flow of the movie as you watch it. The comedy of manners seems painted broad and unholistic; the biographical drama seems like it is not ready to settle. That is, until Dame Judi Dench shows up on the screen.Victoria and Abdul feels as though it was written as a comedy while being directed and interpreted as a historical drama. It wants to imagine a way where the values of English society during its imperial rule of India can be deconstructed into a comic film, while also considering themes of life’s joy and the weight of death. It’s a bit like water and oil; they don’t go together well, although you desperately want them to. Judi Dench, however, breathes life into the film, scene by scene. She lets her guard down as a Victorian traditionalist more and more, giving her queen layers and a trajectory to move forward with. Her scenes with Ali Fazal, who plays Abdul, a peasant from India that Victoria takes a liking to, are light and breezy. There is also comic relief offered in the shape of the Queen’s staff trying to get rid of Abdul, but it sometimes comes across too heavy-handed. Quibbles aside, many scenes will likely be entertaining for several types of viewers. Much of the content is manageable, and there is a nice lesson in paving empathy for oneself cross-culturally. For its use of language, Dove is unable to award the film with approval.