I have always said I love all movies equally. What that means is I don’t have a genre I would dislike (for example, I know people who hate musicals, westerns etc.) And I have never had that issue. Until I discovered I might struggle at times with your old-timey movies that many call “pretty dresses, and people struggling with stuff we mostly no longer struggle with”. And don’t get me wrong, I don’t avoid them, but for whatever reason, they mostly don’t click with me. That is why I was sceptical when my girlfriend suggested we should start watching Downton Abbey (2010 – 2015) together. Imagine my surprise when I was enjoying this entire show as it was well made, brilliantly cast drama that didn’t shy away from dealing with some tough subjects. Then, they decided to make a movie called (surprisingly) Downton Abbey (2019), and I remember liking it (rated it 4.5/5*). But for whatever reason, I wasn’t sure about this new one, as I thought the “Downton magic” might have gone away. It has been a couple of years since I’ve watched the show and the film I only watched once when it came out in the cinema. But I thought I should go back and see whether this world is no longer for me. Well, long story short, it took me about ten minutes before I was back in, and I think Downton Abbey: A New Era is even better than its predecessor.
My main concern going into this film was how do you keep things fresh? Yes, we love these characters and like spending time with them, but you need to have a story to tell; otherwise, you have no movie. Well, this film did a clever thing, where we split the “family” and get two stories happening at once. Part of the family goes to France to deal with a sudden inheritance, and the other stays behind to… watch a movie being made? Yep, even the lords of Downton are slowly running out of money, so when a movie production approaches them about whether they could use the abbey for filming, they (albeit reluctantly) say yes. And both these storylines brought something new, and that is the reason why I loved this film.
I enjoyed the French part of this movie because we get to know more about one of my favourite characters, Violet ‘Dowager’ Crawley, aka Dame Maggie Smith. It’s funny that in reality, you wouldn’t probably like her character, as she personifies that life-style. “A bit” snobby at times, definitely raised to believe because they own lands, they are better than “common folk”, but… Dame Maggie Smith portrays her so brilliantly that you can’t help but fall in love with her character. And in this movie, she is the reason the French storyline happens, as she inherits a chateau, and that fact alone raises more questions about what might have happened there that one week when she was young. I enjoyed looking back at her past before she became the “noble” lady and how they humanized her, even if the “final result” might not be as scandalous as you might expect. Also, there is a surprise mystery to this French element of the film I won’t spoil because I didn’t know about it and had fun thinking about whether “that thing” is true and what would it mean for this world if it were.
Since I am a cinephile, I loved the “making a silent film at Downton” part. How it wasn’t just about the production, it was more about the cinema shifting from silent films to “talkies” and how that affected not only that production but also actors who, up until then, had to only rely on their gestures rather than voices/performances as we think of those now. I also liked how the filmmakers managed to involve most of Downton’s staff to contribute at some point. Sure, that might have been an obvious move to have them involved, but if you think about how productions work today, it makes sense as to why would we have to look for extras if they had people around just then? Also, I need to give a special shoutout to Laura Haddock as her Myrna character was fun, and because of her, you were rooting for her.
Downton Abbey: A New Era made me realise I don’t struggle with “pretty dresses, people struggling with stuff we mostly no longer struggle with” movies. Give me intriguing storylines and, most importantly, great characters and I am there. Sure, what helps in this specific case is you have hours of material in the form of the TV show, so you get to know these characters inside and out. And maybe that is where the key lies for my enjoyment…? Instead of making movies from this time period that need to pack a lot in them for you to “get into the world”, TV is where this genre shines?
What I also enjoyed was how they wrapped up storylines for certain characters. Again, I won’t spoil anything, but I will say everything this movie did with a couple of beloved characters felt satisfying. It almost felt like a farewell to Downton, but (and this is something I never thought I would write) I would love to see another Downton Abbey film. Yes, I am still all in this world. No, I wouldn’t want to go back and live in that era, but I’ve grown to like these characters, and I wouldn’t mind seeing them one more time to give some other characters closure. But, if Downton Abbey: A New Era will be the last time we get to visit this world, they did their farewell brilliantly.
Overall, Downton Abbey: A New Era is a must-see for any fan of the original TV show. The film never felt stale; quite the opposite, both storylines were funny, charming, and intriguing, and the movie still had the “Downton Abbey” essence that managed to pull me in, even after not watching anything Downton related for a few years. And it’s a Downton movie for sure, meaning you will laugh, you will smile, and there are scenes you will probably cry as they still know how to hit you in the feels. I enjoyed my cinema experience, and I can’t recommend this movie enough. If you are a fan of this show, it truly is a must-see event.
That’s all for this one! Did you see it? What did you think about it? Let me know!
Until next time,