Dame Judi Dench is an immediate attendance tick for me. If she stars I view. Sadly I was unable to attend the media screenings for VICTORIA & ABDUL so Kernel John got that honour but I will be seeing it this week now that it has released. Dench playing royalty is as natural as if she was royalty. VICTORIA & ABDUL is one to take your mother and/ or grandmother to see. It will be light hearted and intelligent enough to keep a smile on everyone’s faces. 

VICTORIA & ABDUL is released from Universal Pictures, runs for 112mins and is rated PG. Enjoy Kernel John’s review and have a great day………..all the best………..Salty.


Victoria & Abdul Judi Dench and Ali Fazal image
Judi Dench and Ali Fazal




VICTORIA & ABDUL is a truly beautiful film, set towards the end of the 19th century, when Britain still ruled India. An aging Queen Victoria (Judi Dench) is finding life as a monarch listless and boring since the death of her husband, Prince Albert, 16 years prior.  Filled with melancholy and sorrow, she musters within herself the drive to do no more than rise from bed each morning before eating herself into a culinary stupor. That is of course, until a young Indian man, Abdul Karim (Indian actor Ali Fazal), is tasked with presenting to her majesty a mohur (golden coin), in honour of Victoria’s golden jubilee celebrations. As their eyes meet over the ceremonial cushion, in a shameless breach of protocol, the Queen cracks her first smile in a decade.

What follows is a glorious love affair, not of the body, but of the heart and soul. Victoria finds within Abdul a free spirited teacher, explaining to her the wonders of a mystical far off land that though she rules, she has never set foot in. Abdul for his part finds himself raised from obscurity, to willingly server at the hand of whom he deems his rightful ruler, sharing in her joy and suffering in equal measure. All of this they do together, fighting the oppression, prejudice, elitism and racism of the royal household and even parliament itself, who are all horrified that someone of colour would dare to ingratiate themselves so integrally with the Queen.


Victoria & Abdul Judi Dench and Ali Fazal image
Dame Judi Dench



Director Stephen Frears (FLORENCE FOSTER JENKINS) helms a truly wonderful film. The scenes are perfectly presented and strung together to keep the story moving at an appreciative pace. The plot is light-hearted and comedic at times, yet fierce and sorrowful when the need demands, engaging the viewer and drawing them further into this marvellous world.

As to be expected, Dench shines in her umpteenth occasion portraying a member of the Royal Family – and second time playing Queen Victoria, the first being in HER MAJESTY, MRS BROWN, for which she won a BAFTA. Her performances flow fluidly from a laughing, giddy schoolgirl when interacting with Abdul, to brutally regal and decisive when dealing with the insubordination of those around her. Dench brings a force of presence that never leaves the audience questioning the nature and power of the woman who, at the time, ruled over a billion subjects.

Fazal is just as talented in his jovial, humorous, and almost cheeky portrayal of Abdul. His fascination with the foreign English land that he now finds himself in, and the opportunities it affords him to serve Victoria, put a bold spring in his step and a twinkle in his eye. Fazal perfectly walks the line of his situation though, always servile in nature, not rising to the bait of the disrespectful masses, and certainly never promoting his own agenda. He is the Queen’s man to command and he loves it.

The rest of the supporting cast are just as talented, playing their roles of royalty and servants with the necessary degree to bring the era alive, while still injecting just enough carefree wit to ensure the movie did not degrade into a dull period piece documentary.


Victoria & Abdul Judi Dench and Ali Fazal image
Judi Dench and Ali Fazal



VICTORIA & ABDUL really is a feel good movie. Despite the opposition our two stars face from almost every other character in the film, their adoration and mutual respect for each other keeps their platonic love affair alive and strong. Victoria was a monarch without drive or purpose until her chance encounter with Abdul and his infectious spirit. To see her face light up whenever her “Munshi” would enter the room brought a smile to my face. The Queen’s reasons for keeping Abdul close by her side were always clear and obvious.

On the other end though, the film for me did not really establish Abdul’s motives for staying in England and continuing to be with Victoria strongly enough. There are some obvious assumptions that one can make, such as that he was doing it for the rise in station, or wealth, or status, but in the end none of these ideals really meshed with the way VICTORIA & ABDUL portrayed the character. He was just too nice, if such a thing could be countenanced, that those materialistic values did not seem congruent with his persona, especially when it is revealed that he had left his wife and child back in India years earlier to come to England. I loved the character, I just never really understood why he was doing what he was doing.


Victoria & Abdul Judi Dench and Ali Fazal image
Judi Dench and Ali Fazal



The Munshi’s vague reasonings aside, VICTORIA & ABDUL is a masterful drama about crossing racial and social divides to find common ground and happiness in the hearts of those around us. A wonderful film with a talented cast, be sure to check it out at your local cinema the first chance you get.





A lifelong lover of the silver screen, Kernel John strives to engage and entertain his audience through the shameless use of humour in his reviews, even when it probably isn’t warranted. When not musing for Salty, you can often find John bouncing between his extreme states of either puppy watching down by the beach, or reflecting on the deepest mysteries of the Universe.

** All images courtesy of various sources on Google or direct from the distributor/publisher – credit has been given to photographers where known – images will be removed on request.