It’s 1927, and life comfortably continues for all those living and working in Downton Abbey, a grand estate set in the rolling countryside of Northern England.
When Earl of Grantham Robert Crawley (Hugh Bonneville) and his wife, Lady Cora Crawley (Elizabeth McGovern), receive word that the King and Queen of England will be paying a visit as part of the royal tour, the Abbey prepares for the grand event.
Returning Head Butler, Charles Carson (Jim Carter), takes charge downstairs while Grantham’s daughter, Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery), oversees upstairs. Everyone must pull out all the stops to make sure they uphold the Downton name, regardless of what controversy, scandal or danger is thrown at them…
If you don’t know of the global TV phenomena, this could be a wonderful introduction to discovering it. If you do, then you will enjoy nothing more than returning to a much simpler and comforting time in history.
This film has been created for the fans, and there is nothing shameful about that. The cast and crew know their target audience, and so don’t change what isn’t broken. Award-winning actor and writer Julian Fellowes brings his historical period drama to the big screen four years after the TV show ended as a continuation of the aristocratic Crawley family and their domestic servants. With the show receiving acclaim on both sides of the Atlantic and winning numerous awards, as well as helping launch the careers of actors such as Dan Stevens and Michelle Dockery, as well as featuring screen icons such as Dame Maggie Smith and Penelope Wilton, Fellowes was onto a winner from the start.
Nothing seems out of place here for the big-screen treatment. Bar only a swell of grandeur in John Lunn’s classic soundtrack, especially once we see the mighty Highclere Castle of Hampshire, doubling as the famous Abbey, everything else is as it was when we left it. Filmed in and around the Highclere estate as well as quaint villages and locations across Yorkshire, Wiltshire, and London, the best of what natural England can offer is used on-screen to represent the roaring 1920s. Be it the expanding trade for automobiles, the mighty steam trains in use or love for social situations, everything here feels (and is) natural, authentic and lovingly given the attention to detail it deserves.
Hugh Bonneville and Elizabeth McGovern slip back into their roles as Lord and Lady Grantham and lead a host of familiar faces in their roles. To add new stories and characters, a quality slice of talent joins the cast including David Haig, Geraldine James, Tuppence Middleton, and Imelda Staunton, all adding to the subtle humour and drama in their expansion of the Downton lore. All those upstairs and downstairs get their moments to shine but in an effortless and non-obvious way. Fellowes is here to continue a small screen story with big-screen ingredients, not make some out of place blockbuster.
In that respect, kudos to all involved for retaining what made Downton so successful originally – gentle, decadent, sumptuous family drama. No gratuitous sex, nudity, violence or bad language. We celebrate all things Royal here (back when the Royal family had less scandal on their shoulders!) and there is plenty of horse riding, dinner parties and bunting on show.
This is a direct appeal to the wealth of fans of both the show and well produced and acted period drama. Away from loud blockbusters and awards season, ‘Downton Abbey’ offers warmth, gentle humour and tender emotion in a story where the biggest climax to things is who will polish the silver and just WHAT will the Marchioness of Hexham wear to the Royal ball if her dress doesn’t arrive in time? Find out the outcome to these cliff-hangers and more when you settle back at the Abbey.
Dir: Michael Engler
Scr: Julian Fellowes
Cast: Hugh Bonneville, Michelle Dockery, Jim Carter, Elizabeth McGovern, Maggie Smith, Penelope Wilton, Imelda Staunton
Prd: Julian Fellowes, Gareth Neame & Liz Trubridge
DOP: Ben Smithard
Music: John Lunn
Country: United Kingdom
Run time: 122mins
Downton Abbey is available on Digital on 13th January 2020 and Blu-ray and DVD on 27th January 2020.