Continuing the Crawley family saga, Downton Abbey offers a welcome return to simpler times and the English countryside, where times are changing yet again, thrusting those who work and inhabit the Abbey along with them. The story picks up in 1927, one year after the concluding moments of the television series, when the staff and residents of the titular property are driven into a frenzy at the arrival of a royal telegram, stating that King George V and Queen Mary will be visiting and residing at the house. The film follows several plot avenues in which various returning characters – including that of Hugh Bonneville, Allen Leech, Michelle Dockery, Jim Carter, Joanne Froggatt and Maggie Smith – battle their own conflicts, engage in romantic struggles and wage war against the royal servants who render their jobs useless upon arrival of the royal family.
A continuation of the much-loved television series, the feature acts effectively as a double-bill episode that fans of the Crawley family can gorge on for just that little bit longer. Possessing all the charm and grace that we have come to expect from the smash-hit British period drama, Downton Abbey seizes the opportunity to deliver exactly what the fans want from their favourite characters and setting, and does so to great effect. With seasoned director Michael Engler on board, the transition from television to the big screen was always going to be a smooth conversion, especially given that the fanbase of the series will flock to cinemas in their droves.
The script, written very much like a Christmas special, ticks numerous boxes required when making an enjoyable two-hour period drama, with returning characters helping pack a punch that not only keeps the film progressing through its scenes, but which develops the overall narrative of the franchise too, something viewed as important given that the series has locked the doors for the final time. It’s a simple story, with drama relatively thin and slightly abrupt, but entertaining nonetheless thanks to the wonderful performances of the cast. Of course, Maggie Smith (Violet Crawley) is a sensation, providing a bounty of witty quips and belly-aching laughs throughout the film’s duration, along with tender tear-jerking moments, and further character growth for Allen Leech’s Tom Branson provides a heartwarming look towards the future, particularly moving given how painful the character’s past has been at moments.
The highlights of the film come in two parts. The first is the gorgeous cinematography crafted by Ben Smithard, who captures the essence of the quintessential British upper-class existence, the stunning countryside and the period of the film to absolute perfection. Second is John Lunn’s musical score, which is simply to die for. The music wraps around you in a fabulous blanket of orchestral themes and sweeps you away to early 20th-century England, engrossing you in the environments, architecture and superb costumes in perfect, harmonious balance.
All in all, Downton Abbey is a cutesy film, presenting itself as a one-off special rather than a stand-alone feature. It is, however, a lovely experience with a lovely soundtrack packaged up in a delivery of pure fan service. Sugar and spice, nothing more, nothing less. It’s down to the viewer as to whether that is a good or bad thing. My guess is, loyal followers of the series won’t mind one bit.
Downton Abbey is released nationwide on 13th September 2019.
Watch the trailer for Downton Abbey here: