Unlike, say Germany, the United Kingdom has never had to confront the utterly horrific abuses committed during the time of Empire.
Primarily I think that this is because we can make films like Victoria and Abdul, which, bar the age difference, would make for a pretty good romantic comedy about a young servant and a lady of the upper crust falling in love in defiance of her families and societies expectations. As is, it’s the true story of how a young man from India became Queen Victoria’s teacher and close friend in the twilight of her reign.
And, at that it truly succeeds, showing off the British love of pomp and theatre and habit.of clutching our pearls at the first sign of change or disruption. And for the first half it succeeded in making me laugh and I was enjoying this glossy, made for my mum, piece of period fluff. But then you started noticing things and started getting a bit restless.
Abdul, played by Ali Fazal is pretty much the second coming. He’s always, polite, cheerful, knows exactly what to say and do and seems depressingly happy in being a servant to Queen Victoria, played by the only acceptable alternative to Dame Hellen Mirren- Dame Judi Dench. Who, is probably this in her sleep but is still putting on an amazing performance as a Queen who is apparently tolerant and ahead of her time and therefore despised for it.
Yeah, as a historically accurate document this film is less than worthless. The British Raj, contrary to what this film would have you believe was not full of well meaning but bumbling idiots.
But leaving aside the complete and total whitewashing of history, the fact that that the male lead is Indian Jesus and that Judi French is acting in her sleep but we are also asked to believe that she gave birth to Eddie Izzard who plays her son Bertie and comes as close as this film gets to a villain. But, he and everyone else plays the role of ‘permantly enraged Englishman’ and it all gets rather tiresome after a while.
This is a film that could definitely do with 20 minutes off of it’s runtime as it starts to overstate it’s welcome towards the end.
It is lovely to look at and nobody does anything wrong but a few teeth wouldn’t have gone amis. It has a few hints of resentment towards the English and what we actually did, but it’s just tame, sanitised and a slightly dull use of a very interesting and unique true story.
My Score- If Nothing Else