We fell in love with Downton Abbey’s wealthy Crawley family and their servants over 52 episodes of the luscious period drama. Series creator Julian Fellowes invited us into this exquisite world and by the series finale at the end of the six-season run, we felt like we were saying goodbye to a fascinating collection of old friends.
The series featured a wealth of rich, interesting characters and penning a screenplay that allowed the beloved characters to each snag time in the spotlight must have been an incredibly difficult task. Fortunately for fans of the series, Fellowes was up to the task. He accomplished the creation of a new chapter in the Downton Abbey world by writing an engaging tale that feels authentic and pure yet fits snuggly within the established world.
Downton Abbey the movie centers around a much-anticipated visit by King George V (Simon Jones) and Queen Mary (Geraldine James). The year’s 1927 and while there are a few members of the household who aren’t enthusiastic about the Royals (namely kitchen maid Daisy, played by Sophie McShera), most of the upstairs and downstairs occupants are giddy over their impending visit.
Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery), of course, leads the charge in preparing Downton for these prestigious visitors. The grand English estate is a beehive of activity as rooms are readied, silver is polished, and the kitchen staff prepares to feed the King and Queen of England.
Unfortunately for Thomas Barrow (Robert James-Collier), the character who’s had the biggest transformative journey of the series, Mary isn’t sure Downton will be spick and span and ready for the Royals under his leadership. She requests Carson (Jim Carter) come out of retirement to take charge, a task which he slips into with joy and enthusiasm, tempered by the fact he’s still Carson and not known for being overly demonstrative.
Violet Crawley, Dowager Countess of Grantham (Maggie Smith), approaches the hoopla in typical style, meeting each new development with a whip-smart, biting response, delivered in classic Violet fashion. Violet’s focus during the visit turns to Lady Maud Bagshaw (Imelda Staunton) and her maid, Lucy (Tuppence Middleton). Maud’s a cousin of Robert’s (Hugh Bonneville) and despite the fact she doesn’t have an heir, she’s set on naming someone other than Robert to carry on with her estate. Their “civil” discussions are among the best scenes in the film.
Downstairs, Anna (Joanne Frogatt) and Bates (Brendan Coyle) lead the charge when it’s discovered the Royal staff intend on casting aside the Downtown employees including the cook, Mrs. Patmore (Lesley Nicol). No one puts the Downton staff in the corner, not even the King and Queen’s servants.
Upstairs, Tom (Allen Leech) is afforded plenty of hero moments and is, surprisingly, the emotional heart of the feature film. Lady Edith (Laura Carmichael) isn’t as central to the story as Lady Mary, but Julian Fellowes’ script confirms her life continues to be a series of challenges to overcome away from Downton.
Downton Abbey the film is forced into a slightly faster-paced story than the award-winning drama that spawned it, yet director Michael Engler never rushes. From the first magical notes of the Downton Abbey theme to the brilliant final scenes, Engler and Fellowes do this amazingly talented ensemble justice. They’ve created the perfect film adaptation of a series that charmed viewers for six seasons.
Dame Maggie Smith deserves another Oscar nomination for her performance and delivery of Julian Fellowes’ delicious lines of dialogue. Smith’s outstanding, as usual, but in the Downton Abbey film she’s in her element, elevating every scene.
Downton Abbey targets a specific audience and scores a bullseye. It’s one of the most enjoyable experiences I’ve had watching a 2019 theatrical release, and as a fan of the brilliant series I can’t think of a misplaced line or out-of-character action anywhere in the film. The only negative mark against the film is that it makes viewers melancholy once again over the fact the series has ended.
MPAA Rating: PG for thematic elements, some suggestive material, and language
Running Time: 90 minutes
Release Date: September 20, 2019
Studio: Focus Features