Film review: Downton Abbey (3/5)
Let’s face it, the makers of the Downton Abbey television series took their attention to period detail seriously, though they relied on a sanitised re-telling of a life in service to a privileged class who, in reality, were often less than appreciative or understanding of life below stairs.
This comforting interpretation of an elegant, slower-paced era may explain why it drew so many fans at a time when modern life can seem hurried, lacking in style and good manners.
As such, the film will be a treat for those who regret the ending of the ITV series which ran from 2010-2015, though even fans must be left wondering if it is not so much a movie as an extended TV episode. A sort of early Christmas special without the ad breaks. The viewer is plunged straight in without much attempt at introducing characters to those unfamiliar with the series.
The cinematography offers a point of difference, particularly the opening scenes with a series of aerial shots of a romantic journey by a steam train carrying the letter informing Lord Grantham (Hugh Bonneville) that his home is to host the King and Queen on a visit to Yorkshire.
The storyline unwinds into a rather improbable and, sad to say, rather cheesy set of comic circumstances resembling a big screen version of Monarch of the Glen, the TV comedy series in which Downton’s screenplay writer Julian Fellowes played a bumbling aristocrat.
Downton gives us an idealised picture of early 20th Century English life as the Americans would see it and it throws up a number of sub-plots, some touching on the darker side of life in 1920s Britain, but none explored in any depth, and the villains of the piece are put safely in their place with nothing more than a slapped wrist and a wry chuckle.
All the principal characters are played by the cast from the TV series, with the addition of Tuppence Middleton and Imelda Staunton, and once again it is Maggie Smith as the imperious Dowager Countess, who gets the best lines. Her contribution gives a pleasant if predictable set of outcomes some much-needed moments of surprise.
Downton Abbey, 2hr 3 mins