Downton Abbey fans rejoice – our favourite, immaculately dressed Crawley family and their cohort of hard-working servants are back and they’ve been expecting us.
In the much-anticipated lavish 2-hour feature film, critically acclaimed screenwriter Julian Fellowes reunites the original cast in a whirlwind event that will leave fans longing for more.
All our favourites are there – Mary (Michelle Dockery), maintaining her austere perfection as Downton’s heir, Branson (Allen Leech), making eyes at a visiting maid (Tuppence Middleton) and Edith (Laura Carmichael) struggling in the rigid formalities of her position. Lord and Lady Grantham (Hugh Bonneville and Elizabeth McGovern) are watching over the household and of course, the Dowager Countess (Maggie Smith) is still verbally sparring with Isobel (Penelope Wilton).
Downstairs, the drama is just as thick as ever – Mrs Patmore (Lesley Nicol) is pushing kitchenhand Daisy (Sophie McShera) to start planning her wedding to Andy (Michael Fox), Mr and Mrs Bates (Brendan Coyle and Joanne Froggat) are toting around their young son and Thomas (Robert James-Collier) is at the peak of his tumultuous character arc as butler. Carson (Jim Carter) is retired and pulling carrots from his garden, wistfully thinking of his beloved Downton, and Mrs Hughes (Phyllis Logan) is still managing the bevy of maids. It’s as if the four years between the TV show ending and the release of this film never existed.
The film opens with the familiar theme song and tracking shot as a letter makes its way to Downton. Marked with a royal stamp, it announces the impending visit of King George V (Simon Jones) and Queen Mary (Geraldine James). The family and staff are thrown into preparations for the royal visit and we’re witness to every tiny delicious detail.
It’s interesting to notice the similarities and differences between the TV show and film. The film picks up in 1927, one year on from when we left the characters. There are small changes in the characters’ relationships that fans will delight in noticing and the fact that every cast member has returned for the film elevates the viewing experience – it’s as familiar and comforting as reclining into an old chair. The pace of the film is at times much faster than the show, but this is to be expected. Each character is afforded their own subplot to orbit around the main flurry of the royal visit – there’s a flirty plumber, a silver thief, a pregnancy, and an assassination plot to keep everyone on their toes.
It’s undeniable that the film was created for a ready-made audience, overlooking any comprehensive introductions to the throng of characters. Viewers new to the Downton Abbey phenomenon, which at one point reached 120 million viewers worldwide may want to brush up on the intricate web of relationships before seeing the film lest they miss a few of the finer plot details.
Downton Abbey may not attract droves of new converts to the cinema, however, it is bound to have all of its adoring fans enraptured.
The royal visit of George V to Downton Abbey was based on his real-life visit to Wentworth Woodhouse in Yorkshire which was used in the film for the ballroom scenes.