Outside of animation my other favorite style of storytelling is period pieces. So, when the hit show Downton Abbey premiered I was immediately hooked. During its 6 season run the show had its highs and lows (problems mostly caused by cast departures) but it always won me over with terrific acting, lush production values and sparkly writing. Now 4 years later creator and writer Julian Fellowes has gifted us fans with a feature film for the series, and a gift it is. I don’t think that Downton Abbey as a film will win over newcomers to the franchise, but I don’t think that it needs to. For those of us that love these characters you will be as delighted as I was.
It may seem like an odd comparison, but think about the recent Avengers: Endgame. Are the makers of Endgame responsible to make a film that pleases someone who has never watched a Marvel movie? I don’t think they are. In fact, if they did, they would more than likely waste a lot of time in boring exposition that would drag the movie down. It’s the same here. It is perfectly reasonable for the creators of Downton Abbey to assume the vast majority of its audience will be fans of the show; thereby, validating their choice to basically make a Christmas episode of the show on the big screen for those fans
That explanation out of the way, let’s talk about the movie. The premise is rather simple. All of our family and staff at Downton are thrown into a tizzy when they find out the King (Simon Jones) and Queen (Geraldine Jones) are coming for a visit. Mary (Michelle Dockery) has been running the manor along with her brother in-law Tom (Allen Leach) but she is starting to wonder if it is all a waste of energy. Many other large homes are being sold and households are economizing. Meanwhile each of the family members from Lady Violet (Maggie Smith) to Mary’s sister Edith (Laura Carmichael) have their own stories and events happening in their lives.
Downstairs the staff at Downton is thrown into even more upheaval as they plan for the royal visit only to find out the royal staff has little to no interest in working with them. Now-retired butler Carson (Jim Carter) comes back to help make things run well and his wife Mrs Hughes (Phyllis Logan) struggles to keep the peace between the new and old staff. Just like upstairs, each person in service has their own stories as the royal visit impacts them each differently.
We also get some new characters like the Crawley’s cousin Maud Bagshaw (Imelda Staunton) and her maid Lucy Smith (Tuppence Middleton). They definitely bite off a lot of storylines, but for the most part I was pleased with how they all played. There’s one involving Princess Mary (Kate Phillips) I probably would have eliminated but everything else I found very entertaining.
Most importantly Julian Fellowes gives his incredible group of actors a terrific script full of cracking dialogue. It honestly made me wish we could get a series of movies every few years and keep following these characters. All the performances are fantastic with Maggie Smith and Penelope Wilton (as Isobel) stealing any scenes they are in. It’s also not just a fluffy movie but there’s some real heart and moments of growth. I was particularly pleased with how things played out for poor Edith who always seems to get the short end of the stick.
It probably goes without saying but if you’re a fan of Downton Abbey go see it! You’ll love it just as much as I did! It’s a worthy follow-up to our favorite show and well executed in nearly every way. My friends are having a tea party on Saturday and then we are going to see it together and I can’t wait. Rarely do I get to have such fun with a film, and I am going to relish in it. It’s an event worthy of the Queen. 🙂
8 out of 10