Victoria and Abdul – Mind-Boggling Story Revealing Racism at the Turn of the 20th Century

Abdul Karim arrives from India to participate in Queen Victoria’s golden jubilee. The young clerk is surprised to find favor with the queen herself. As Victoria questions the constrictions of her long-held position, the two forge an unlikely and devoted alliance that her household and inner circle try to destroy. As their friendship deepens, the queen begins to see a changing world through new eyes, joyfully reclaiming her humanity. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Samantha M. comments, “This incredible, historical film opened my eyes and made me better understand the world I live in. Given that racism is still a prevalent issue in today’s society, it was mind-boggling to see it in Britain, at the turn of the 20th century.” Lucia F. adds, “How could the Empress of the British Empire and a poor Indian clerk possibly have anything at all in common? The fact that there is much that they share is a major theme in Victoria and Abdul.”

Victoria and Abdul
By Samantha M., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 17

This incredible, historical film opened my eyes and made me better understand the world I live in. Given that racism is still a prevalent issue in today’s society, it was mind-boggling to see it in Britain, at the turn of the 20th century. I admire how this film brings the past to the present, and made me question how racism can dissipate in the future.

This film carefully documents the relationship between Queen Victoria and her beloved servant, Abdul Karim. Queen Victoria reigned in the United Kingdom from 1837 to 1901. She was the longest serving monarch in world history. In addition to being a queen, she was also the Empress of India. Because of this, Abdul Karim and his friend Mohammed are sent from India to Britain to deliver a sacred coin: the Mohur. Abdul and Mohammed believe they are only going to remain in Britain for a short period of time, but they end up going on the adventure of a lifetime.

Judi Dench, who plays Queen Victoria, exceptionally portrays a queen who is tired of her constriction. All she wants to do is have Abdul be her full-time servant, but because of his origins, Queen Victoria’s staff does not approve. Ali Fazal, who plays Abdul Karim, considers the queen a very special person and his kindness towards her is impeccable. He teaches her the Quran and shares his culture with her. As time goes on, both develop a strong friendship, which is truly heartwarming.

The setting is remarkable. I’ve never seen the Taj Mahal, Scotland or the queen’s palace. This film takes the audience to all these places. After seeing the beauty in other countries, it makes me want to travel the world. My favorite part of this film is when Queen Victoria eats with her staff. She eats very quickly and, once she finishes her food, regardless if the others are done or not, the servants take all of the food away. It’s hilarious to see people still eating their meals and have their food taken away in the blink of an eye.

The message of this film is that no race, culture or religion is subordinate to another, even though individuals are from many different backgrounds. Britain is usually portrayed as one of the most powerful countries, but not in this film. We have to learn to not categorize others as inferior because of their lifestyle. Differences make society beautiful. If we were all the same, everything would be boring.

I give this film 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it to kids ages 15 to 18 as well as adults. There are undertones of adult subject matter throughout the film. Queen Victoria is infatuated with much a younger, married man, which is why an older audience is more suitable for it. Check it out when it opens in select theaters on September 22, 2017. I guarantee you’ve never seen anything like this before.

Victoria and Abdul
By Lucia Funaro, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 18

How could the Empress of the British Empire and a poor Indian clerk possibly have anything at all in common? The fact that there is much that they share is a major theme in Victoria and Abdul.  One example is that they are both in “prison.” You first see scenes with Abdul and Queen Victoria in their native habitats: waking up, doing their jobs and, we see that they both exist in confined situations. Abdul works in an actual Indian prison, doing a very boring job and Victoria later says she is “in prison” because she cannot do what she wants to do, which is to explore the world. In one surprising scene, Victoria actually falls asleep at the table at her Golden Jubilee dinner! Abdul catches her eye and he becomes a window to the wonderfully exotic world of Indian culture.

Every British character in this story, except Victoria, is a terrible racist. The Royal staff of Queen Victoria disapproves of her friendship with Abdul and are constantly conspiring to sabotage their relationship. In contrast, Queen Victoria is fascinated by India, the languages, architecture and just about everything. She wants to explore India, but she cannot because if she does, she likely will be assassinated by the oppressed Indian people. Her son and heir Bertie (later King Edward VII) is the most hateful of all. One of the first things he does as king is to burn all evidence of his mother’s 14-year friendship with Abdul that exists among his mother’s papers and photographs.

One of the things that really stood out for me in this movie was the dialogue. Many wonderful actors are very lucky to bring life to this well-crafted screenplay. Judi Dench, as Queen Victoria, is really funny and dramatic at the same time. Ali Fazal, as Abdul, is amazing because he shows the care, love and respect the character has for the Queen. Of course, Michael Gambon is appropriately arrogant as the Prime Minister (although his distinctive voice keeps bringing Dumbledore to mind!)  Eddie Izzard, as Queen Victoria’s son Bertie, is also phenomenal as the worst villain in a movie full of them – very realistic and believable. The director Stephen Frears and the writer Lee Hall are amazing because they capture an important piece of history in an entertaining way. (When I found out Lee Hall wrote Billy Elliot, I knew this movie was going to be great.)

I give Victoria and Abdul 5 out of 5 stars because it tells the remarkable story about how two people from very different worlds come together as friends. I recommend this movie ages 13 to 18 because there are no intense moments and the plot is slightly complex. There are only funny, sweet, beautiful and some sad moments. You can see Victoria and Abdul in theaters when it opens on September 22, 2017.

Victoria and Abdul
By Benjamin P, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 12

Victoria and Abdul is a surprisingly humorous historical drama with great performances from its two main leads.

Victoria and Abdul opens in India when Abdul (Ali Fazal) is chosen to take a long voyage to England to present a special coin to Queen Victoria (Judi Dench). During the ceremony, something sparks their long, close and unusual friendship which is the subject of the film. Victoria and Abdul follows the queen in the final years of her rule. She is 81 years old and finds little happiness in her day-to-day life until Abdul arrives. Abdul teaches her how to speak and write in Urdu and soon becomes her “munshi,” a spiritual adviser. Many in the queen’s household do not approve of their friendship because of Abdul’s origins. Nevertheless, their friendship thrives.

Judi Dench plays a quite believable Queen Victoria and brings out both the stubborn and kind sides of her character. Dench really shows a range of emotions and truly brings out the personality of this historical figure. Dench makes Victoria’s loneliness so convincing that I felt her pain. Her rudeness makes sense considering every day she is followed by a selfish posse of unfaithful followers. When Abdul arrives, the kinder parts of her character come alive.

Ali Fazal portrayst a very likable Abdul, but he feels poorly developed in comparison and never really gets a chance to shine. I also have to give props to Eddie Izzard who plays Queen Victoria’s son Bertie. He is a believable villain and keeps up a terrible personality until the final frame. Despite the talented cast, this film feels disjointed. There’s too much going on and too many characters to keep up with. Victoria and Abdul never quite fully develops the relationship between the title characters and the film suffers because of it. It also tends to be melodramatic at times, especially at the end.

I recommend it for ages 13 to 18. This films talks about some subjects that could be unsettling to explain to a younger child. Little kids will probably not enjoy the film as much as tweens, teens and adults because they won’t know the history and the context. I give the film 3.5 out of 5 stars. At its core, this film is about how one friendship overcomes prejudice and racism. Victoria doesn’t care what other people think about Abdul. He is her friend and that’s all that matters.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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