Downton Abbey (2019)
The audiences at Avengers: Endgame (2019) on opening weekend were nearly a show to behold themselves. Every time a beloved character was introduced onscreen or a fan-favorite moment occurred, raucous cheering, more at home at a sporting event, was heard. However, only a young portion of the world population was able to connect to that level with the comic-book film; the new Downton Abbey (2019) is geared towards a slightly older demographic, but (at least in my screening) equal amounts of devotion and cheer were brought.
Downton Abbey is a film continuation of the greatly successful British TV series Downton Abbey (2010-2015). The show followed the wealthy British Grantham family from 1912 to the mid 1920s, along with their relationship with their servants and vice versa. The film picks off in 1927, and has the entire cast gracefully return. The narrative follows a visit from the King and Queen to Downton, throwing expectation and flurry into the household.
Julian Fellowes returns to write his characters into the sunset, and the clear care and love for his creation is apparent. Revisiting such fan favorites as the Dowager Countess (Maggie Smith), Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery), and Mr. Carson (Jim Carter), is enough to throw any Downton fan into a fit of excitement. Given the constraints of a film’s running time, Fellowes does well to make the rounds and distribute equal time to the ensemble. However, given such a limited tally of scenes, a performer’s talent is brought much more to light, which allows the indomitable Dame Maggie Smith to shine with one-liners that out to be compiled in a book.
The series took a meditative look at the fading aristocratic classes in Britain of the 18th and 19th centuries, and the film seems to continue this exploration. A great portion of this Downton Abbey pits the royal staff with that of Downton, causing a certain introspection to occur in regards with such hierarchical systems. But unlike the show, the film has too little time to dwell on this subject, instead seeming to throw the question to viewers while it hastily seeks to have fun with the status-quo.
In fact, the time constraints of a film seemed to pin Fellowes’ wings too much. The Downton Abbey series was famed and praised for its slow-burn pace, which allowed reveals and emotional confessions to burst beautifully after careful crescendos. Without such ample time in a film, however, Fellowes crams too many reveals and excitements, robbing the atmosphere of its reserved nature. This even caused certain clashes to seem too goofy and out of place with the tone the characters had set in five seasons. There seemed to be plenty of ideas and plot points in the film to make another satisfying season, making one question why Fellowes had stopped in the first place.
In the end, the Downton Abbey film is a loyal continuation of the fantastic TV series and will leave the most devoted of fans satisfied with the chosen trajectories of their beloved characters. The overstuffing and urgency regarding the runtime rob the film of the breathing room that would have accentuated the writing and narrative, but nevertheless don’t take away too much from an enjoyable time. And any film with Dame Maggie Smith in is always worth attending.