While fans of the series will no doubt find more enjoyment in seeing the characters that they’ve grown to love triumph on the big screen, the latest in the Downton Abbey story has plenty to enjoy for newcomers and seasoned fans alike.
Possibly the most English story on screen, the film adaptation of the beloved series (which aired six seasons form 2010 – 2015), set in 1927, sees their royal majesties themselves, King George V and Queen Mary (played by Simon Jones and Geraldine James respectively) staying at the titular Downton Abbey for a stop on their royal tour. Chaos ensues as the seasoned staff of the Abbey fight for their right to serve their King and Queen, all to the backdrop of 1920’s England.
Despite following the stories of over a dozen characters from the series, the clear stand out character is the Abbey itself, with filming taking place at the iconic Highclere Castle in Hampshire, England where the show itself filmed. The stunning wide shots and establishing shots of this breathtaking location make up an impressive amount of the film’s runtime, taking us on a visual tour of the gorgeous castle. While impressive enough from the outside, the many glimpses at the gigantic interior, through beautifully decorated sets, felt like a glamourous labyrinth with a new surprise around every corner.
Of course, the film’s impeccable locations were complimented by the costumes and decorations within the film, with the attention to detail in the styles and set dressing making the film stand out as an artefact of an era. This period-appropriate apparel was worn with pride by the elegant cast supporting it, with many of the series original actors returning.
While I personally haven’t seen the original series, and perhaps a lot of the joy of these returning characters was lost on me, the film’s monumental cast delivered performances that were at times both dramatic and devilishly entertaining for those with a more sophisticated pallet (or at least those who can decode the ramblings of the upper class).
Returning fans will no doubt fall in love again with the characters who they felt most attached to from the series, with a large portion of the series’ original cast reprising their roles (with the exceptions of Lily James’, Lady Rose MacClare and Samantha Bond’s Lady Rosamund Painswick, who did not return for the film). That being said, the witty and hilarious banter between Dame Maggie Smith’s (Harry Potter) Violet Crawley, Dowager Countess of Grantham and Penelope Wilton’s (Shaun of the Dead) Isobel Grey, Baroness Merton was definitely a stand out for the uninitiated.
Though there are so many characters to follow, which may get confusing to those unfamiliar, all these stories felt like neat wrap-ups to beloved characters from the show, and in no way detracted from the cute story that unfolds over the course of the film. Almost like a long episode, the film definitely felt very self-referential with many a scene of deliberate fan service, but not enough to take away from new viewers. While many questions fans might have had are undoubtedly now answered, the film seems to not only finish a chapter but leave room for another story to be told.
The elegant score that accompanies the film is like a final ribbon on top, tying together this quaint and entertaining gift to cinemagoers on a whole. A combination of stunning scenery, delicate costumes and intelligent and witty performances, Downton Abbey stands tall as a film in its own right.
A three-course meal for the eyes, the film continuation of Downton Abbey is almost an intersect between old and new values, both in its presentation of the past to the present and in its following on from the series that gave it fame. Serving both as a continuation and a fitting send-off, Downton Abbey is a beautiful period piece that should be watched with a glass of champagne by your side.
About the author
ABOUT THE WRITER: Harry Sabulis is a film, music, theatre and media crazed writer with a passion for all things artsy. A certified nerd and aspiring screenwriter, Harry loves storytelling in all of its forms. You can read some of his film reviews on his blog, Kill The Critic.