Big screen version a treat for fans

Jim Carter in Downton Abbey (IMDB)

Downton Abbey is a British period drama that is a continuation of the television series of the same name. Source: ACOFB.

The series gained 15 Emmy Awards in its six-year run and Downton Abbey was the most nominated non-US show in the history of the Emmy awards. It stands with Brideshead Revisited as the most successful British costume-television drama of all time.

Creator Julian Fellowes has co-produced the movie and most of the original cast has returned for this full-length feature. 

Set in the autumn of 1927, the film continues the story of the aristocratic Crawley family, owners of a large Yorkshire estate and focuses on a royal visit to Downton.

 The film shows definite links with the television series that preceded it – in direction, acting, and production. Without much attempt at all to familiarise the viewer about the past, Downton Abbey just continues on to pick up in detail the lives of the Crawley family and their domestic servants.

The historic abbey is under the influence of Violet Crawley (Maggie Smith), the Dowager Countess of Grantham – the mistress of the acerbic aside – and is preparing for the arrival of King George V (Simon Jones) and Queen Mary (Geraldine James). Old rivalries are just as evident, and some are accentuated. The estate is thrown into anxious disarray by the royal couple’s impending arrival. The family asks retired head butler Carson (Jim Carter) to return to Downton Abbey to help it cope. Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery), in particular, is feeling the pressure of her administrative responsibilities.

In the space of two hours there is not a lot of time for viewers to explore too many major events. But there is nevertheless time in the movie for a few unexpected liaisons, gender-identity confusions, and social rivalries that threaten the Crawley family’s feelings of social importance, and self-worth. 

The film is a little like a richly layered ice-cream cake, waiting for eventual melt-down. In format and style, the movie asks viewers to begin to contemplate the decline of the British aristocracy, but tension still plays out between the ruling and the serving classes. 

Devotees of the original TV series will not be disappointed.

Reviewed by Peter W. Sheehan, ACOFB

Downton Abbey: Starring Hugh Bonneville, Jim Carter, Michelle Dockery, Elizabeth McGovern, Maggie Smith, Imelda Staunton, Penelope Wilton, Simon Jones, and Geraldine James. Directed by Michael Engler. Rated PG (Mild themes). 122 min.

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Downton Abbey (ACOFB)

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