Victoria & Abdul

An extraordinary tale of a queen and her new best friend.

Stephen Frears’s retelling of the platonic love affair between the elderly Queen Victoria (Judi Dench) and her much younger Indian manservant (charismatic Bollywood star Ali Fazal) is whimsical and endearing.

Poster for the historical drama Victoria & AbdulAbdul (Fazal), a 24-year-old common clerk, finds himself plucked from obscurity to accompany a fancy gold trinket from Bombay to Buckingham Palace. Five thousand miles and four months at sea later, he faces his grand moment at a palace dinner. Sternly schooled in the rules of royal approach – no sudden movements, no backs turned, and no eye contact – Abdul ignores them all, and the Queen is instantly smitten by the stranger in the turban who dares to kiss her feet. 

The 70-something Queen is terribly lonely, and still mourning the loss of her two great loves, the late Prince Albert and the treasured manservant John Brown. Abdul’s kindness and open-hearted curiosity captivate a woman starving for human connection, and Fazal makes Abdul’s swift ascent to royal confidante believable. Frears (Philomena, Florence Foster Jenkins) glosses over certain realities of the era but maintains the sweet core of his story: A wildly unlikely, almost entirely chaste romance that would sound too fantastical to believe if it hadn’t actually happened.

– Leah Greenblatt, Entertainment Weekly

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