Story

Victoria and Abdul is based on the book of same name by Shrabani Basu, and on the real-life relationship between Queen Victoria and her Indian servant Abdul Karim.

Abdul Karim (Ali Fazal) arrives from India to participate in Queen Victoria's (Judi Dench) golden jubilee. He and a companion, Mohammed, are to present the Queen with a ceremonial coin. The Queen is instantly attracted to the handsome young clerk who, against the rules, makes eye contact with her.

Abdul is ordered to stay in Britain and promoted by the Queen to the role of her ‘munshee’ – advisor on India and language teacher. Victoria and Abdul forge an unlikely and devoted friendship, which gives Victoria a new zest for life. But many people – members of the Royal Household, the heir to the throne Prince Albert, the Prime Minister and other officials – are horrified and determined to end the friendship. 

Themes

Colonialism and the British Empire; racism; the life of a monarch; ageing; sexually transmitted disease

Violence

Victoria and Abdul has some violence. For example:

  • A doctor lunges at Abdul and grabs him round the throat, starting to choke him before being interrupted.
  • Prince Albert threatens to have his mother declared insane.
  • Victoria shouts ‘Treason, treason!’ and angrily dashes objects off her desk on to the floor.
  • Men burst into Abdul’s house, pushing his wife and mother-in-law out of the way and terrifying them. They seize and burn letters and other materials linking Abdul to the Queen.

Content that may disturb children

Under 8
Victoria and Abdul has some scenes that might scare or disturb children aged under five years. For example:

  • Mohammed looks ill and is huddled in a blanket. He coughs blood into a handkerchief. After he dies, Abdul cries at his burial.
  • Victoria’s death is sad, and Abdul and others are upset and cry. Her body is shown lying in state, and Abdul kisses her feet.
  • Abdul is distraught when his mementos from the Queen are burned. He screams and tries to grab things from the flames as his wife tries to pull him away. 

From 8-13
Younger children in this age group might be disturbed by some of the scenes mentioned above.

Over 13
Children in this age group are unlikely to be disturbed by anything in Victoria and Abdul.

Sexual references

Victoria and Abdul has some sexual references. For example:

  • People discuss the fact that Abdul’s wife doesn’t seem able to have children. A doctor is asked to examine her ‘downstairs’.
  • Abdul is described as being ‘riddled with the clap’. The Queen is later told that Abdul has gonorrhoea.

Alcohol, drugs and other substances

There is some use of substances in Victoria and Abdul. For example, people drink at state banquets.

Nudity and sexual activity

None of concern

Product placement

None of concern

Coarse language

Victoria and Abdul some coarse language and some racist language.

Ideas to discuss with your children

Victoria and Abdul is an interesting and moving historical drama, with some lighter moments. Based on a true story, it shows Queen Victoria at the end of her life, still grieving her husband Albert and servant John Brown, and feeling very much a prisoner in her own life. She has no friends and is surrounded by people who criticise her behind her back, but curry favour in her presence. The arrival of a handsome and very different young man from India and the friendship that develops between them gives her life new meaning.

Victoria and Abdul is most likely to be enjoyed by adults. The story is likely to lack interest for children under 10 years, and there are scenes and themes that might confuse or scare younger viewers. The movie also has some coarse and racist language. For these reasons, we recommend parental guidance for children aged 10-14 years.

The main message from this movie is that true friendship can develop between people of very different ages, race, religion and positions in life.

Values in this movie that you could reinforce with your children include accepting difference, avoiding racism and being honest.

You could also talk with your children about issues like:

  • the life of a monarch as shown in the movie
  • colonialism and the British Empire,
  • religion.