This is a quick review of the film Downton Abbey (opening in theaters September 20, 2019). I was invited as media by Focus Features to screen the film early in exchange for my honest opinion of the movie.
As the music swells and the frame soars over the picturesque Downton Abbey you cannot help but become immediately overwhelmed with the warm sensation of coming home to friends and family. Contrary to what the Dowager Countess (portrayed to perfection by Dame Maggie Smith) says with well timed exasperation in the beginning of Season 6, “…After all, why would anyone pay to see a “perfectly ordinary house?” But we would, wouldn’t we? Downton Abbey is one of those shows that you always hear you should watch, but until you do you cannot really understand the connection. It is so much more than a “perfectly ordinary house” and the Grantham’s that are upstairs and the staff that are downstairs are so much more then could ever be described as ordinary.
As summarized on PBS.org:
Downton Abbey, the award-winning series from Julian Fellowes, spans 12 years of gripping drama centered on a great English estate on the cusp of a vanishing way of life. Nearly six years ago, America fell in love with Downton Abbey’s Granthams and their family of servants, and has followed them through sweeping change, scandals, love, ambition, heartbreak, and hope ever since. With Julian Fellowes’ crackling writing and its stellar ensemble cast led by Maggie Smith, Downton Abbey delivers wit, warmth, passion and a phenomenon that is, at its heart, utterly human.
And now that you are caught up a bit, where are we now? Watch the video below to get a quick recap of the first 7 seasons so we can be ready to dive in.
So is it what us, the fans really needed it to be?
Yes… it absolutely delivered!
As always, the photography and costumes sweep you away into another world where the aires of time gone by are still mixing and evolving into a modern world that is quickly leaving everything Downton knows and loves behind. In complete consistency with the original vision, the movie picks up in perfect step with the original look and feel of the television show. The women are practically perfect and the men are dapper and put together. And though all the characters are well versed in how to carry-on a picture perfect life as though it takes no effort at all they are quickly undone with the arrival of a letter from Buckingham palace.
When word spreads that the King and Queen intend to spend the evening at Downton Abbey on their way to a ball in the area, the household both upstairs and downstairs rises to the occasion with all of the giddiness and excitement, as Lady Cora (Elizabeth McGovern) of an American. Various members of the family return from the places their lives have taken them back to the house where the story began and that is when the movie really begins.
The downstairs household is up to the task and working hard for the royal staff’s arrival to help them prepare the house for the King and Queen. Many rude awakenings occur when the staff learns that their place in their own house is not secure upon the arrival of the royal staff and the jobs that they have all perfected overtime are now not considered good enough.
Different “ups” and “downs” present themselves that try their best to put a damper on the visit (quite literally during one very English rain storm) but when the big day arrives Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery) exclaims, “Day has dawned and God has proved conclusively that he is a monarchist”. Does everyone in the family believe the same though? Could history, time, and distance have changed the hearts and minds of some like the times around the family seem to be changing?
So many of our old friends come back into to our lives again during the course of the Royal visit. I was more than satisfied with the direction many of my favorites took during the movie, though that is not so say there are not moments that will break your heart. Those moments are natural though in the course of the story and it didn’t feel as though any tears were shed for the sake of tears. There were laughs on the other hand (and from some of the most unlikely of places). Lessons were learned, drama unfolded, and love bloomed plentifully- just as it should have been. It truly felt like it was the natural extension of a series that never lacked the big emotions in the minute details of living life at a place like Downton Abbey.
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Director: Michael Engler
Writer: Julian Fellowes
Producers: Gareth Neame, Liz Trubridge, Julian Fellowes
Cast: Hugh Bonneville, Laura Carmichael, Jim Carter, Brendan Coyle, Michelle Dockery, Kevin Doyle, Joanne Froggatt, Matthew Goode, Harry Hadden-Paton, David Haig, Geraldine James, Robert James-Collier, Simon Jones, Allen Leech, Phyllis Logan, Elizabeth McGovern, Sophie McShera, Tuppence Middleton, Stephen Campbell Moore, Lesley Nicol, Kate Phillips, Maggie Smith, Imelda Staunton, Penelope Wilton