First Hit: The story was funny, interesting and predictable.
Queen Victoria (Judi Dench) is portrayed as not very interested in her duties or her life. She sleeps through state dinners and when she eats, she scarfs her food down with gusto. During this time, England is a world power and as such, England rules India and therefore she is Empress of India.
During the Queen’s Golden Jubilee (50 years on the throne) leaders of countries came to celebrate and bring the Queen gifts. India sent two Muslim servants to England to present the Queen a special coin. They are told to not look at the Queen when they present the coin. However, Abdul Karim (Ali Fazal) does look at the Queen and she responds in kind.
Inviting him to be her man servant, he gains her trust and friendship and soon she makes him Mushi, which means teacher. With Abdul, she begins to learn Hindustani and of Indian culture which she thinks is appropriate because she’s Empress of India.
The film is focused on her loyalty to Abdul, his loyalty to serve the Queen, and the Queen’s staff worrying that their relationship is inappropriate because he is different and beneath them. There are comical scenes, sad scenes and scenes that share information about the rules of the time.
Dench was perfect as someone who was lost in the boredom of her role as a Queen only to come alive with new interest and energy by way of Abdul. Fazal was excellent as Abdul. His expressions of both wonder at the spectacle of it all and the seriousness of his role as Mushi were very engaging. Eddie Izzard (as Bertie, Prince of Wales) was very good as the resistant son who wanted Abdul gone because without him the Queen’s general health was becoming worse which put him closer to the throne. His cruelty as he takes the throne is horrible. Lee Hall wrote a very good script that brought this story to life. Stephen Frears did a nice job of sharing the story. He provided a plausibility while shedding light on their relationship and deep caring for each other.
Overall: It was entertaining and informative.