I’ve been a fan of Downton Abbey since I saw the very first advert for a new ITV drama programme in the summer of 2010. 12 years later or about 18 years later going by the chronology of the show, we have reached the second Downton Abbey feature film.
I can also say I had to watch it for business purposes as I do day trips to the real Downton Abbey at Highclere Castle as well as a grand Downton Abbey walking tour in London which many of the locations for York and other cities are filmed.
I have scattered posts about Downton Abbey through the years but if you plan a refresher on the first film then you see my review for it here.
Downton Abbey: A New Era is set pretty much straight after the first film as the Crawleys welcome in the 1930s. There are two main plots this time one at Downton and the other in the French Riviera.
At Downton, Michelle Dockery’s Lady Mary convinces Hugh Bonneville’s Lord Grantham that the stately home needs some much-needed repairs to the roof that are leaking like a government scandal from Downing Street. Fortunately for her they receive a request from the film production company who want to use Downton as a location for a silent movie and are happy to pay very handsomely for the privilege.
Arriving with the Tinseltown glitz comes new characters in Hugh Dancy’s dashing director who’s keen on starting an affair with Lady Mary, Dominic West’s Clark Gable-like leading man who rather takes a fancy for Thomas and Laura Haddock’s Hollywood star whose career’s in danger as Talkies come in, something which might be obvious the very first time we hear her speak.
The much-loved Downstairs characters are quick to get involved with the production, especially Kevin Doyle’s Mr Molesley who provides some of the film’s biggest laughs, just as he did in the previous movie when he dared speak to the King out of turn
Meanwhile Maggie Smith’s Dowager Countess has mysteriously inherited a villa from an old admirer, which Lord Grantham and a small band of servants go to investigate in the south of France with the distinct possibility that Lord Grantham may be the result of a holiday romance and even worse than that, part French!
I always like Mr. Carson who is not just the most throughly decent character imaginable but also in some ways more proper the the family he works for and he shuffles around France in the heat, having refused to give up his three-piece tweed suit. He’s then only to be mistaken for Lady Bagshaw’s husband, played by his real-life wife Imelda Staunton!
Considering the size of the cast, both Upstairs and Downstairs favourites each get their moments to shine throughout, which is certainly an improvement on the first film where not everyone had something to do.
There are plenty of plot twists and turns for fans to enjoy, especially in giving characters a number of happy life changes of sorts.
If you enjoy Downton Abbey then I have no doubt you will love to escape back to the world for a few hours. Everything is as we left it. Gorgeous shots of the countryside and fine houses. Sumptuous costumes, evocative music and the characters we all know and love.
One of the great things about Downton Abbey films is that they don’t pretend to be some big event, everything is pretty much like a Christmas 2 hour special on television which is all we really want given what a roaring success it always was.
I’m really happy that quite a few characters got some closure and end the film a bit happier and more fulfilled than at any time in the last decade or more though there is I think the easy possibility of having a further film as one main character still needs to find a happy ending.
There was the odd sad and worrying moment and indeed anyone who watched the last film might guess what the most traumatic moment might be. It was sad, not for the character in particular and I understand the actress has long tired of it but more for us the viewers who have enjoyed the put-downs and insults.
It is in no-way a comedy but as usual there are a few humorous moments such as Mr. Carson discussing just how French the French are and expressing his sympathy for “the poor things”. What really made me laugh out loud as well as everyone else in the audience was when the blonde silent movie star is, with the other primary characters involved in making the movie, invited to dinner at the grand table whether the Crawley family. She is told that being such a gorgeous silent film star must be very glamorous and romantic. When she bluntly replies in her cockney accent that it isn’t really as she knows all the men in the room just want to ‘give her one’, it must be the most unexpected line ever to be uttered at a Downton dinner much to the shock of Lord Grantham and co!