Victoria and Abdul

Out Now On-Demand

History's most unlikely friendship.

Queen Victoria (Judi Dench) strikes up an unlikely friendship with a young Indian clerk in this period drama from the director of The Queen.

When Abdul Karim (Ali Fazal, Furious 7), a young clerk, travels from India to participate in the Queen’s Golden Jubilee, he is surprised to find favour with the Queen herself. As the Queen questions the constrictions of her long-held position, the two forge an unlikely and devoted alliance with a loyalty to one another that her household and inner circle all attempt to destroy. As the friendship deepens, the Queen begins to see a changing world through new eyes and joyfully reclaims her humanity.


Directed by

Written by

  • Lee Hall
  • (based on the book of the same name by Shrabani Basu)



Rating: PG


Look, I’m all for an unlikely friendship story. A budgie and a lion cub? Sign me up. The Hound and Arya Stark? Absolutely love it. A reigning ancient monarch who forces a young Indian servant to hang out with her all the time because she’s a bit bored? Hmm, sounds troubling. Even if loosely based on a true story, these very dodgy foundations of Victoria and Abdul continue to wobble all the way to the end.

Director Stephen Frears (The Queen) initially aims for a winky, satirical tone in Victoria and Abdul, which becomes a cop out when dealing with the more gnarly racial elements of the film. Based on one glance at Abdul, Queen Victoria fetishizes fancies him and demands he become her personal teacher. Nothing like those mystical people of the East to get white women Eat, Pray, Love-ing back to their full selves again, right? “Do you like your costumes?” Victoria asks her slave friend, as he is forced to show off his new tartan turban in Balmoral.

As the wide-eyed loyalist Abdul, Bollywood star Ali Fazul does his best with a role that hasn’t been written with the intent to destroy any lazy stereotypes whatsoever. Judi Dench carries the whole film on her 82-year-old shoulders, playing the gluttonous geriatric who snores at banquets, drinks like a fish, snaps like a turtle, and drops the grouch for only a few scenes to show a much more vulnerable Vicky. But just like putting truffle oil on a Twinkie doesn’t instantly make it gourmet, putting Dame Judi Dench in a film doesn’t instantly make it a masterpiece.

Victoria and Abdul becomes mildly interesting when broader politics and treachery come into play, but the friendship between the pair never feels genuine. On the whole, it feels drenched in royal nostalgia sap, and a failed ironic distance to the racism of the period that doesn’t dare to really scratch the surface. While Victoria and Abdul gasps through one queen’s desperate dying days, it also feels like it could be the death knell of the middling monarch movie genre altogether.

Total Film (UK)


A royal treat.

FilmInk (Australia)


...a satisfyingly sweet confection which will find, and please, its audience.

TimeOut (London)


This is kid-gloves historical storytelling. It's sometimes amusing, and occasionally touching, but there's nothing here to scare the horses.

Hollywood Reporter


The sizable constituency that turns out for glossy period drama of this kind will embrace the sumptuously appointed Victoria & Abdul as a moving account of an isolated old woman finding joy and lightness in her final years.

The Guardian (UK)


What a peculiarly dodgy, conservative film this is - a lazy salute to a good queen and her faithful Indian servant.

Variety (USA)


"Guess Who's Coming to Dinner" served with mango chutney.



Stephen Frears knows how to keep the culture-clash comedy bright and sprightly, and Lee Hall has written a script which can be charming fun while having a few digs at racism and snobbery along the way. (Darren Bevan)


It's a prestige picture, make no mistake, but its target audience is looking to be placated rather than challenged. (Graeme Tuckett)


Fun to watch, but there is a gratifying amount of shade and jaggedness among all the expected pageantry and japes as well. Recommended.

A charming Victorian tale.

This old Queen has been the flavour of the month, for months it seems. Just when we thought we knew all there was to know here we go again in a timely tale about colonial India (which is also celebrating it's 70 year independence birthday). Lovely to look and alternating at a clip between funny and and tragic this flick is a pleasure to watch. Judy Dench is at her finest as the old Queen who is tired of life and unexpectedly finds joy in a new friendship. Stephen Frears does what he does best finding charm and humour even in the face of racism and greed. Should please Anglophiles, Royalists and anyone who enjoys historical costume dramas.