Review - Downton Abbey
It has been almost four years since the last appearance of the Crawley family and their servants on the small screen. For six years, with six seasons and five specials, the costume drama became one of the biggest British productions with an international reputation and three Golden Globe wins, and 15 Primetime Emmy Awards wins.
Now, the Downton Abbey team makes a visit to the big screen with a so-called "Motion Picture Event of the Year". Although I would call it a grand event for the show, it might not be the biggest highlight for the cinema this year.
The film takes place in1927, two years after the events of the show's finale, with the big news of a royal visit from the King and Queen of England to Downton manor. As the family and the servants prepare themselves for the arrival, multiple storylines are being created, putting all the returning characters into new obstacles and situations.
There is a lot to enjoy in this continuation of the show. Firstly the production value is as great as it was during the show, with the beautiful costumes and set designs, all being lavished with the gorgeous and dreamlike countryside- and of course the manor itself, that truly glows in each shot it lies in.
The score from John Lunn returns with the soothing and emotional themes, by adding some new tracks that feel at home with the rest of the wonderful music that the show loves to use.
The performances from the whole cast are worthy of celebration, as they never feel like have been gone from their roles at all. The new additions to the cast are also welcomed especially Imelda Staunton as Lady Bagshaw, and Tuppence Middleton as Lucy Smith.
Of course, the biggest shout-out is Dame Maggie Smith as the gloriously entertaining sharp mouthed Violet Crawley, Dowager Countess of Grantham. She brings the biggest laughs and some heartwarming moments, in true spirit to the character.
In fact, the film is filled with heartwarming moments that fans of the show will truly enjoy and cheer seeing their characters finding hope, closure and even love. But that could also be the problem with Downton Abbey.
If this production was the final episode of the show, then I would name it as true quality television, with all the necessary ingredients of a fulfilling finale with elevated cinematography and directing for British television.
But for someone who might not be familiar with the characters and the show in general, then this might not be as emotionally investing.
Although one of the best qualities of the script is to make sure everyone's role and place is established for anyone with no knowledge of the series prior. But when it comes to certain pieces of conversation, certain characters may appear rude or mean spirited, not understanding it as banter and part of their personalities.
Because of the film's restrictions, not all characters can shine on screen, even though it was very impressive to include almost all the recurring actors of the show in such a short time. In the end, only a handful of them had strong enough plotlines to be imprinted into the movie.
From the already mentioned Dowager Countess' family past with Lady Bagshaw to the surprisingly strong storyline of Thomas Barrows (Robert James-Collier) and the silly but entertaining feud between the royal staff and the Downton servants. Tom Branson (Allen Leech) had a big spotlight with both a bizarre thriller side plot to a sweet romantic encounter.
All these story arcs make sense to an episodic narrative but for a cinematic film, it seems unbalanced and strangely paced. Especially when the film follows the formula of a show which I can only characterize as a high production value soap opera- with good acting.
Making Downton Abbey into a film it is not impossible to think, as Julian Fellowes' original script for the show was a spin-off to his Academy award-winning script of Gosford Park. A film that has some similar threads but with a far darker and sinister tone, which in this case the Downton film is far more joyous and delightful.
In the end, I would definitely recommend it for the fans, but it does feel like a well-shot episode with a special release in cinemas. But for the average viewer, there is enough entertainment to be found, but I would suggest finding a recap of the show beforehand.
As a long-time fan, I would have given a larger ratting, because this is a magnificent ending for the show, but as an individual cinematic film, it, unfortunately, does not hold up by itself.
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