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Heartwarming: a different side of Queen Victoria

George Luke gives his verdict on new movie Victoria & Abdul ...

Victoria & Abdul (Certificate: PG)
Starring: Judi Dench, Ali Fazal, Eddie Izzard, Tim Pigott-Smith
Director: Stephen Frears

Victoria & Abdul sheds light on a little-known story from British history: that of the unlikely friendship that developed between Queen Victoria and Abdul Karim – an Indian prison clerk initially shipped over to England to present Victoria with a gift from his country at her Golden Jubilee celebrations.

Abdul became Victoria’s ‘munshi’ (teacher) and taught her to speak, read and write Urdu. He also taught her about India and his Islamic faith. Needless to say, not everyone in Buckingham Palace approved of the relationship; Palace staff and Victoria’s son Albert Edward tried every trick they could think of to wreck it.
Queen Victoria is often portrayed in popular culture as being strict and formal, but Lee Hall (who also wrote Billy Elliot) has written a script which gives us a glimpse of her vulnerable side, showing us a queen who is tired of formality and eager to discover and learn about other cultures.

Seeing the unlikely friendship between the two bloom and grow is just heartwarming. Victoria & Abdul is full of funny moments – and some incredibly sad ones too.
Dame Judi Dench does a superb job playing Queen Victoria for the second time in her screen career (the first was opposite Billy Connolly in Mrs Brown, 20 years ago). Great performances too from Bollywood star Ali Fazal as Abdul, and Eddie Izzard as a devious, bumbling Albert Edward.

The film also features the late Tim Pigott-Smith in his last ever film role, playing Queen Victoria’s Private Secretary, Sir Henry Ponsonby.

A free companion booklet for churches to use in connection with the film is available HERE.

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