Fenella Woolgar

Fenella Woolgar

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Victoria & Abdul Review

Good

Essentially a sequel to the 1997 hit Mrs Brown, this film returns Judi Dench to play Queen Victoria in another relationship that shook up the royal household. It's such a perfect role for Dench that it's impossible to imagine anyone else playing her, and this film traces Victoria's final 15 years with plenty of lively humour and some pointed drama. The story is a bit thin, and some elements are difficult to believe, but it's thoroughly engaging.

The story opens in 1887, as Abdul (Ali Fazal) is selected to travel from India to London with Mohammed (Adeel Akhtar) to present Queen Victoria (Dench) with special honour. In London, Abdul and Mohammed are called "the Hindus" even though they're Muslims, and told to stay out of sight with the servants. But Abdul catches the Queen's eye, and she brings him into her household as a personal tutor in Urdu and Islam. Her staff (headed by Tim Pigott-Smith) doesn't like this at all, and conspires with both the heir to the throne (Eddie Izzard) and the prime minister (Michael Gambon) to undermine Abdul's influence. But Victoria isn't having any of it, demanding that they respect him.

This is a story that was hidden for more than a century, because after Victoria's death all references to Abdul were erased from the official history. It was only the discovery of Abdul's journals that revealed the truth, and screenwriter Lee Hall (Billy Elliot) has clearly taken some artistic licence as he crafted the facts into an entertaining narrative that's packed with hilarious touches. Meanwhile, Stephen Frears (The Queen) directs in jaunty Downton Abbey style, never quite taking anything seriously.

Continue reading: Victoria & Abdul Review

Victoria And Abdul Trailer


Queen Victoria was one of the United Kingdom's most loved monarchs. She ruled over her country with dignity and grace though she wasn't a lady to be toyed with. After the death of her beloved husband, Albert, the queen found herself mourning her loss for the rest of her life - famously she wore black for her remaining years. She took solace in her children and continued to be a fine ruler of the country. 

After the loss of Albert, few people penetrated the queen's frosty persona, most famously she developed a great friendship with a Scottish servant called John Brown and they remained good friends - some even say lovers - until his death. Once again alone, the queen was only to develop one other significant friendship outside of her close circle. 

As the queen was celebrating her Golden Jubilee, she found herself surrounded by kings and queens from around the world but the one person that she genuinely struck up a friendship with was a Muslim waiter called Abul. Though it was entirely frowned upon for the royals to associate with lowly servants, Victoria was never one to follow those rules. 

Continue: Victoria And Abdul Trailer

Whisky Galore! Review

OK

Scottish filmmaker Gillies MacKinnon (Hideous Kinky) remakes the 1949 Ealing comedy classic, although it's difficult to understand why. Loosely based on a true story, it's a lively romp set on the edge of Europe during World War II. But after nearly 70 years the material called for a much fresher approach than this rather dull farce. At least the cast is likeable, even if they can't inject much spark into the story.

It's set on the island of Todday, off the west coast of Scotland, where the locals are horrified that their rationed quantity of whisky has run dry. Annoyed that they now have only tea to drink, they get on with their lives. Postmaster Macroon (Gregor Fisher) is preoccupied with the romances his two daughters are carrying on: Catriona (Elle Kendrick) is in love with skittish schoolteacher George (Kevin Guthrie), while Peggy (Naomi Battrick) has just reunited with her returned soldier boyfriend Odd (Sean Biggerstaff). Then a ship runs aground off the shore, and word has it that its cargo hold contains a massive whisky shipment. So the villagers devise a plan to sneak around local military officer Wagget (Eddie Izzard) to salvage the hooch.

All of this plays out as a rather tepid adventure, never cranking up any suspense at all as Wagget is easily outwitted by everyone else on the island. The dual romances play out without even a whiff of lusty zing or dramatic tension. And there's also a political thriller thread involving a stash of important documents, which the script sidelines completely. Instead we get more of the whisky-chugging local minister (James Cosmo) who participates in the hijinks but forbids heist activities on the sabbath. Director MacKinnon stages everything in slapstick style, accompanied by a ludicrously insistent comedy score by Patrick Doyle. But it's never very funny.

Continue reading: Whisky Galore! Review

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Fenella Woolgar Movies

Victoria & Abdul Movie Review

Victoria & Abdul Movie Review

Essentially a sequel to the 1997 hit Mrs Brown, this film returns Judi Dench to...

Victoria And Abdul Trailer

Victoria And Abdul Trailer

Queen Victoria was one of the United Kingdom's most loved monarchs. She ruled over her...

Whisky Galore! Movie Review

Whisky Galore! Movie Review

Scottish filmmaker Gillies MacKinnon (Hideous Kinky) remakes the 1949 Ealing comedy classic, although it's difficult...

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