Following all the Oscar buzz from his last film, last year's delightful Florence Foster Jenkins, British director Stephen Frears is back with his latest endeavour: British-drama Victoria & Abdul.

Based on a true story, the film - as the title simply suggests - delves into the off-kilter relationship between Queen Victoria (Judi Dench) and a young Indian clerk, Abdul Karim (Ali Fazal). It's a friendship that isn't taken too kindly to by the inner house - most especially, Victoria's son Bertie (Eddie Izzard). A lot of eyebrows are raised but, as this unlikely friendship between this unlikely pair deepens, both find that they learn a lot about each other through this alliance and their perspectives on the world are changed too. It's certainly a touching story that boasts a lot of charm and heart but, sadly, this film is devoid of any of that whatsoever and lacks a pulse altogether.

Quite simply, Victoria and Abdul is 'Victoria and A Bore'. For a true story that, on paper, is so warm and whimsical, it's a real shame to see that this film squanders it all and lacks any of that joy to be nothing more than tiring and bland. For starters, given that the film is titled Victoria and Abdul, we should start with our eponymous leads and the titular relation; sadly, any characterisation is non-existent and we do not care for either Victoria or Abdul, let alone their friendship. The writing tries hard to carve out charismatic and rich arcs here and, whilst Fazal certainly brings some charm to his role, the screenplay never manages to bring any depth or emotion to these characters that can really get us invested and rooting for them. Of course, when no one works as an individual character then there's no chance of any relations being of any value to us and the central friendship falls flat; it's nothing more than tacky, mawkishly written and one-dimensional - we just don't care in the slightest.

The film suffers some poor pacing too; there is the occasional joke that will be thrown our way but it never feels within context and is always out-of-place - they're also so few and far between to give this film any actual comedic value. Aside from this, nothing really happens. The screenplay meanders in various directions but it's all just tedious because the screenplay fails to really innovate and keep things interesting and, again, we are so detached from the relationship and the characters that it's hard to really get excited by any of the narrative decisions that are made. It's just so tiring and boring, so much so that even Judi Dench looks bored - she's clearly phoning it in. What Victoria and Abdul feels like is a string of various events that all lack any real pertinence or urgency and that are merely there for the sake of it, to drive a "story" in a direction and fill out a runtime quota. There is a bland vibe to the direction and the editing too; the production and costume design feel noticeably cheap and it all just adds to tell a story that is devoid of any compelling edge and any real heart or wit. It's a trivial film. And it's dull and it is bad.

Victoria and Abdul is trivial and boring; a tedious affair that is painfully devoid of any pulse or redeeming qualities.


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About the Author

Awais Irfan
Founder of Oasis Awais, and avid lover of life, Awais Irfan's love of writing and film is unequivocal. Ever since he was a little kid, he has loved the cinematic experience; so much so, he is studying Film Production in Glasgow and hopes to be the next "big thing" in directing.

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