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Arts & entertainment

Downton Abbey: A New Era is an unashamedly feel-good movie

31 May 2022 | Written by By Jacqui Holding

Hugh Bonneville stars as Robert Grantham and Michelle Dockery as Lady Mary in DOWNTON ABBEY: A New Era, a Focus Features release. Credit: Ben Blackall / © 2021 Focus Features, LLC


As a self-confessed binge-watcher of the ‘Downton Abbey’ series which aired on television (ITV) from 2010 to 2015, it was a foregone conclusion that I would want to watch the latest film on the many escapades of the Crawley Family and their household. The beauty of it is that it follows on from the first film which, in turn, follows on from the end of the series. While many of the same characters, played by the original actors, reappear, there are new players joining the cast too, their stories interweaving with the family through friendships, marriages and so on. 

 

What’s it all about?

‘Downton Abbey: A New Era’ (2022) begins with the Crawley family embarking on an overseas excursion to France, after the Dowager Countess of Grantham inherits a French villa from a man she knew as a young woman, and the son of the dead man invites the family to visit. It is decided that some of the household members from upstairs, along with a few of the staff from downstairs, will accept the invitation and take a trip to France. While Robert Crawley, the present Earl of Grantham, and his wife, Cora, travel to France with the Dowager and some hand-picked staff from downstairs, their eldest daughter, Mary stays at Grantham to oversee a film production team who have taken over Downton as a location for a silent film called ‘The Gambler’. And so, as an audience, we see the stories unfolding in both France and in England, where those left behind try and salve their disappointment of not going abroad by throwing themselves into the exciting prospect of meeting real actors. 

Having almost finished the shots for their silent film, the producers are told that their investors are pulling out because silent films are no longer attracting audiences. The new-style Talkies have taken over. A radical re-think opens up an exciting opportunity for the downstairs staff left at home, to become extras in order to complete the filming.

 

(l-r.) Harry Hadden-Paton stars as Bertie Pelham, Laura Carmichael as Lady Edith, Tuppence Middleton as Lucy Smith and Allen Leech as Tom Branson in DOWNTON ABBEY: A New Era, a Focus Features release.
Credit: Ben Blackall / © 2021 Focus Features, LLC

 

Was it any good?

Maggie Smith is highly acclaimed for her performance as the Dowager and Michelle Dockery (who plays Mary) along with her two sisters (played by Laura Carmichael and Jessica Brown-Findlay) bring a touch of glamour to the world of Downton Abbey, even as their bickering occasionally comes into play. We laugh along with the twists and turns as people fall in love, fall out of love, grapple with the changing world around them and embrace the coming of new technology, social expectations and modern life.

I would urge anybody to watch “Downton Abbey: A New Era” on the big screen. And it might be a good idea to have a packet of tissues on hand – you will need them. Immerse yourself in the unapologetic storyline of a British upper-class family and their servants, together with the close bonds that bridge the social class divide, whether real or imaginary.

Laura Haddock stars as Myrna Dalgleish and Michael Fox as Andy in DOWNTON ABBEY: A New Era, a Focus Features release.
Credit: Ben Blackall / © 2021 Focus Features, LLC

Final thoughts

I thoroughly enjoyed Downton Abbey: A New Era, as I think everybody else in the cinema – mostly women – did. I would give the film 8*s (out of 10), only because it does appeal predominantly to people who like a specific genre. But for all that, the film easily stands alone as a representation of a period when so many changes were happening.

Finally, I want to add that this film isn’t just aimed at ardent followers. It is entertaining in its own right and has a little of everything. Set in the late 1920s, it encourages you to set aside the idea that the class system dictates the role of each player. For instance, in the real world, it would be rare to find a chauffeur who married the Earl’s youngest daughter and is now very much entrenched Upstairs. Also, the first half of the twentieth century was always haunted by the inability of a young gay man, or woman, to live a full life without denying their sexuality. The film tries to address these taboos but it also allows us to forget the real world for a while and enjoy the fantasy of these characters’ lives and the opportunities they have. There is so much to soak up when you can immerse yourself in what is simply a great storyline. So sit back and enjoy a thoroughly entertaining few hours. 

Have you seen the new Downton Abbey film? What did you think of it? You can share your comments below!


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