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Victoria and Abdul

Stephen Frears

Nearly 20 years after her Oscar-nominated and BAFTA-winning performance as Queen Victoria in Mrs Brown, Dame Judi Dench makes a welcome return to the role, playing one of Britain’s most famous monarchs. Directed by Stephen Frears (Philomena), Victoria and Abdul tells the largely unknown story of an unusual royal friendship chronicled in Shrabani Basu’s book Victoria & Abdul: The True Story of the Queen’s Closest Confidant.

"...the largely unknown story of an unusual royal friendship..."

It’s 1887, and the British Empire is celebrating Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee. Among the kings and princes in attendance is Abdul Karim (Ali Fazal), a young clerk who has traveled to the event from his famine-ravaged home in India to present the aging monarch with a ceremonial coin. Despite being under strict instructions not to look at her Majesty, Abdul meets Victoria’s eyes and gives her a smile, beginning one of the most unlikely friendships in history. This close contact between monarch and subject was deemed unsuitable by the government and those closest to the Queen, especially Prince Edward (Eddie Izzard). Never one to be told what to do, Victoria questions the constrictions of her long-held position and, defiantly, the two forge a devoted alliance. As their loyalty to one another withstands her inner circle’s attempts to destroy it, their friendship deepens. And the Queen, after years of joyless existence, begins to see a changing world through new eyes and reclaims her humanity.

Adapted for the screen by Billy Elliott screenwriter Lee Hall, Victoria and Abdul is a warm and witty period drama which is bound to take the chill off those early autumn days. Dench sparkles as a Queen who isn’t ready to give up on life just yet.