The human side of Britain’s monarch is shown in a softer light
No stranger to royals, after humanizing Queen Elisabeth II in the critically-acclaimed The Queen, director Stephen Frears returns to matters of court to give Queen Victoria similar treatment. An adaptation of Shrabani Basu’s book of the same name, based on Her Majesty’s personal correspondence, Academy Award winner Judy Dench gives her second onscreen performance as Queen Victoria (after 1997’s Mrs. Brown), portraying the aged monarch as bereaved and lonely after outliving most of her contemporaries, but finding solace and guidance from her Indian footman, Abdul Karim (Ali Fazal). As Karim endears himself and gains influence with Victoria, both are faced with intolerance for their unconventional friendship.
The film playfully depicts Karim’s meteoric rise to the post of Her Majesty’s Indian secretary in the face of racism, religious bigotry and power games, while showing a gentler side of the monarch. Victoria’s fragility and weariness contrasts well with Abdul’s youthful, wide-eyed enthusiasm, both brilliantly portrayed in an authentic and believable performance.