Victoria & Abdul

GoMovieReviews Rating:
PG-13Victoria & Abdul

Director: Stephen Frears

Based on journalist Shrabani Basu’s book: Victoria & Abdul: The True Story of the Queen’s Closest Confidant,

Screenplay by: Lee Hall

Casting Directors, Leo Davis & Lissy Holm. Casting Director – India, Nandini Shrikent. Music by Thomas Newman. Make-up and Hair Designer, Daniel Phillips. Costume Designer, Consolata Boyle. Production Designer, Alan Macdonald. Editor, Melanie Ann Oliver, ACE. Director of Photography, Danny Cohen, BSC.

Produced by: Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Beeban Kidron, Tracey Seaward.

Starring: Judi Dench, Ali Fazal, Eddie Izzard, Adeel Akhtar, Tim Pigott-Smith, Olivia Williams, Fenella Woolgar, Paul Higgins, Robin Soans, Julian Wadham, Simon Callow and Michael Gambon.

In 1887, Abdul travels from India to present a ceremonial medal as part of the Queen’s Golden Jubilee.

As the title suggests, Victoria & Abdul is a film based on the (mostly) true events of a previously unheard of close friendship between Queen Victoria and a Muslim Indian, Abdul Karim.

The film opens on a caricature portrait of the queen: an elderly, overweight woman, bored and cantankerous as she attends seemingly endless engagements to celebrate her 50 years on the throne.  Until a tall, handsome ‘Hindu’ catches her eye.

Aside from the difference in age and race, Queen Victoria blossoms under the attention of this most attractive, warm-hearted man.  And you can see the romantic overtures of the relationship as the elderly monarch falls in love with Abdul’s (Ali Fazal) bright eyes and unique perspective of the world.

Although not a physical relationship, Abdul becomes her close confident and Munshi, a spiritual advisor and teacher – completely unheard of in 17th century England.

She persists in keeping Abdul by her side against the pressure and ultimate rebellion of her Court and family, demanding she stop keeping the Indian man’s company, let alone promote him.

And it’s fascinating to watch the iron will of the Queen as she insists – because, after all, isn’t she the Empress of India?

In 2001, journalist Shrabani Basu, while researching the origins of curry, discovered not only Queen Victoria’s love of curries but also a portrait and bronze bust made of an Indian gentleman.   After further investigation, 13 volumes of Queen Victoria’s diaries were found, previously unread because they were written in Urdu (a Persianised and standardised register language of the Hindustani language).

After translating the diaries, Basu discovered the unconventional relationship between the Queen and a young clerk, Abdul.Victoria & Abdul

The book has been adapted for the screen by writer, Lee Hall (who also wrote the beloved, Billy Elliot (2000)), changing the journalistic style of the book into a drama more suited to a wider audience.

Victoria & Abdul

The setting and costuming were carefully crafted, showing the extravagance of royalty while also showing the silliness of ceremony.

Victoria and Abdul is a period drama, which isn’t really my cup-of-tea, but there’s true brilliance in casting Dame Judi Dench as Queen Victoria (again) – Dench depicting the Queen’s grit beautifully with guidance from director, Stephen Frears (both Frears and Dench having experience portraying Queen Victoria with Frears directing The Queen back in 2006 and Dench cast as Queen Victoria in, Mrs Brown (1997)).

Victoria & Abdul gives a glimpse into the personality of the woman, her iron will and the simplicity of her nature; the drawing reflected so well in Abdul’s eyes.

It was like watching an elderly, sick woman come to life.

And inspiring to see one so sure of her wants and needs against all other opinions, even those of her son.

Fan’s of Judi Dench you will enjoy seeing her play the borderline dirty old woman cradle snatching a younger man (Abdul, 24 when he first arrived in England and the Queen, in her 80s), and to admire her strength of character while surrounded by pompous idiots.

So, an enjoyable watch with highlights of humour and emotional undertones – a chance to look behind the curtain of English Royalty, to glimpse a remarkable woman who, against all odds and so late in life, found love and friendship in the most unlikely person, her Munshi, Abdul.

The Big Sick

GoMovieReviews Rating:

Director: Michael Showalter

Producers: Judd Apatow, Barry Mendel

Writers: Kumail Nanjiani, Emily V Gordon

Starring: Kumail Nanjiani, Zoe Kazan, Holly Hunter, Ray Romano, Adeel Akhtar, Anupam Kher

I’m a sucker for romantic comedies, and one of my most vivid memories is leaving the cinema after seeing When Harry Met Sally (1989), with a silly grin plastered on my face, knowing I had seen something really special. Critical praise has been similarly heaped on a new romantic comedy, The Big Sick, and I had high hopes I would experience that earlier euphoria again. I really wanted to like this movie a lot, but perhaps being older, or the film being set in a grittier, grungier, dimly lit world, The Big Sick didn’t give me a similar case of the warm and fuzzies.  It’s still worth watching, however, because it is generally entertaining, thoughtful, and with a positive message.

Based loosely on the real-life romance of an interracial couple, The Big Sick’s rom-com vibe is set within a broader comedic setting. It has some laugh out loud moments, combined with revealing insights into what it is to be part of a family, whether that family hails from North Carolina or Pakistan. The pacing seemed to drag at times, however, with some scenes drawn out or not really necessary to the plot (which reflects the number of rewrites the script underwent).

Kumail Nanjiani (Silicon Valley, Fist Fight) plays a likable variation of himself, while his romantic partner Emily is played with raw honesty by actress Zoe Kazan, who is also a playwright (unlike the real Emily who is a therapist). Neither character wants to get into a relationship, with Kumail living by a rule not to see someone longer than for two days. Despite this, he and Emily cannot help themselves and start keeping company. He spends most of his free time at a comedy club where he has a stand-up routine that isn’t very good, surrounded by three buddies who just happen to be his real life fellow comics and friends.

Set against this aimless lifestyle of friends, alcohol, sex and Uber driving, Kumail has another, separate life that involves his Pakistani family who keep trying to find him “a nice Pakistani girl” to marry. Not surprisingly, Kumail isn’t a fan of entering into an arranged marriage, having taken to the American way of life whole-heartedly.

Some of the most amusing scenes in this other life include Kumail’s family dinners, with young Pakistani women who just happen to drop in as they were “in the neighbourhood” (despite the family living in a cul-de-sac). Kumail keeps these women’s photos in a cigar box for no particular reason, and many of them try to attract his interest by watching things he likes, such as The X-Files.

The first part of the movie focuses on Kumail and Emily’s budding relationship, and their sudden break-up because Kumail admits he cannot see a future with her due to his parents’ opposition. It’s only when Emily becomes gravely ill that Kumail realises what is important, and that he must choose his own future rather than one dictated by his family.

We also meet Emily’s parents, Beth (Holly Hunter with an almost impenetrable accent) and Terry (Ray Romano), who provide a sharp contrast with their prickly tension and over-protectiveness. Both parents’ growing fondness towards the young man who broke their daughter’s heart is depicted convincingly.

While not as hilarious as the trailer promises, The Big Sick still has a big heart and, like Kumail’s courtship of Emily, may slowly insinuate its way under your skin. Worth seeing at least once, if only for Kumail’s often artless reactions to other people’s conversations.