“Downton Abbey”, which continues what was supposedly ended at the end of the final season of the popular British TV drama series of the same name, is a fairly entertaining historical drama film to enjoy. For reviewing this film, I actually watched all the 52 episodes of the TV drama series during last several months, and I can tell you now that the movie is a solid encore to follow its TV drama series.
The movie, which is set in 1927, mainly revolves around Downton Abbey as usual, which is a big old British manor which has been owned and managed by Robert Crawley (Hugh Bonneville), the 7th Earl of Grantham, and his dear family members for years. When they are beginning another day in their manor, a letter is delivered from none other than the Buckingham Palace, and not only Robert and his family but also their servants and maids are both nervous and excited for a good reason. The King of England and his queen are going to stay at Downtown Abbey for one day as going through their routine tour in the country, and that means everyone in Downtown Abbey will have to do their best for serving their highly honorable guests.
Like its TV drama series, the movie gradually gains its narrative momentum as going back and forth between its upstairs and downstairs people. While Mary Talbot (Michelle Dockery), Robert’s eldest daughter who has been managing the estate along with her deceased sister’s Irish husband Tom Branson (Allen Leach), is ready to get everything under control, Edith Pelham (Laura Carmichael), Mary’s another sister who became the Marchioness of Hexham at the end of the TV drama series, gladly comes to Downton Abbey along with her husband, and their mother Cora (Elizabeth McGovern), their grandmother Violet (Maggie Smith), and Mary’s mother-in-law Isobel (Penelope Wilton) are also quite willing to give extra help and support for what may be the grandest day for everyone in Downton Abbey.
In case of a bunch of servants and maids in the estate, many of them are all delighted by the prospect of serving their king and queen, and Mr. Carson, the ex-butler of Downton Abbey who retired as being succeeded by Thomas Barrow (Robert James-Collier), is certainly glad to be back in action for this special occasion, but he and other downstairs people soon face a big annoyance when a group of royal servants and maids arrive in advance. Besides mostly being pretty haughty, these royal servants and maids insist that they should be in the front line when it is the time to serve the king, the queen, and other honorable guest, and Mr. Carson and other employees in Downtown Abbey including Elsie Hughes (Phyllis Logan), who is still the housekeeper of Downton Abbey after marrying Mr. Carson, are certainly not amused at all.
With these two main dramas being developed on the center stage, the screenplay by writer/co-producer Jullian Fellows, who also wrote nearly all of the episodes of the TV drama series, also juggles several other subplots. There is a little romantic trouble between Daisy Mason (Sophie McShera) and Andy Parker (Michael C. Fox) in the downstairs, and then there is a private issue between Edith and her husband in the upstairs, and then there is also a rather suspicious circumstance involved with a stranger who approaches to Tom not long after arriving in the nearby town.
And there is Maud (Imelda Staunton), Lady Bagshaw, who has been the queen’s lady-in-waiting and is also an estranged cousin to Robert. Because Maud is not so willing to make Robert inherit all the assets currently belonging to her, Violet has been not so friendly to Maud for years, and she is more pissed off when she later comes to learn that Maud is going to leave everything to her faithful maid, who happens to befriend Tom not long after she and her lady arrive in Downton Abbey.
While we all know that nothing particularly big or serious will happen when the king and his queen arrive as expected, the movie keeps engaging us as busily rolling its story and characters, and director Michael Engler, who has been mainly working in TV and actually directed several episodes of the TV drama series, did a competent job on the whole. The production qualities of the film are as good as we can expect, and its real locations including Highclere Castle in Hampshire, UK certainly bring some necessary authenticity to the screen.
Above all, the main cast members of the movie are commendable in their effortless ensemble performance as before. While Hugh Bonneville, Maggie Smith, Elizabeth McGovern, and Michelle Dockery are the most prominent ones in the bunch, many dependable veteran members including Jim Carter, Phyllis Logan, Allen Leach, Laura Carmichael, Sophie McShera, Michael C. Fox, Robert James-Collier, Brendan Coyle, Joanne Froggatt, Lesley Nicol, Kevin Doyle, Raquel Cassidy, Penelope Wilton, and Matthew Goode easily slip into their respective familiar roles as before, and Imelda Staunton and Tuppence Middleton also hold each own place well as the two new main characters.
Overall, “Downton Abbey” is basically more or less than a special TV episode, but it is a well-made one equipped with enough style and substance, and you certainly should not miss it if you enjoyed its TV drama series. As a matter of fact, there will soon be another Downton Abbey movie in this year, and I am already interested in watching that upcoming film.