Film Review: Downton Abbey


Film Review: Downton Abbey

Release date: 13th September 2019

Director: Michael Engler

Starring: Hugh Bonneville, Laura Carmichael, Elizabeth McGovern, Jim Carter, Maggie Smith and many more

Runtime: 120 minutes

Genre: Period drama

Watched in: 2D

Rating: 3/5 stars

Downton Abbey is the much awaited return of a very popular series. This time, the characters take to the big screen with a film version of the television programme. Downton Abbey aired between 2010 and 2015 and was very popular, so in many ways it’s no surprise it made it to the big screen. The film sees the family, and servants, at Downton Abbey preparing for a royal visit from the King and Queen.

While I was delighted to once again hear Downton’s wonderful main theme and return to the halls of the grand house, I wonder if the film was a step too far. It was charming and entertaining, but the plot was a little thin. It would have perhaps worked better as a special episode for TV, as that’s basically what I felt like I was watching, rather than a film. It will certainly appeal for fans of the show, but is not the best entrance to the world of Downton Abbey for anyone not familiar with the TV show.

The film is well acted and well put together, but doesn’t quite have the spark a feature film should. It just didn’t quite suit this format as well as the course of a whole season. There was a lack of any tension or stakes that the TV series managed to achieve, and there were no doubts that all would work out in the end with a neatly tied bow on the top. It was nice, happy, and probably a bit of self-indulgence for fans, but I didn’t feel I gained anything from seeing it at the cinema rather than from the comfort of my own sofa.

The focus was very internal and on the royal visit to Downton. What the TV show did so well was take a wider look at the various different periods in which it was set, looking at the issues troubling England and the world. This side of the TV show was definitely lacking in the film, with very little exploration of wider societal issues, besides vague mentions of strikes in the north.

Maggie Smith is once again excellent as the Dowager Countess, with her witty quips providing some much needed humour to what was quite a fluffy film. The ‘downstairs’ antics were rather fun, if a little farfetched perhaps. It was of course wonderful to see all the characters again.

The film failed to tug at my heartstrings, either in terms of suspense, heartache or joy. It was pleasant but sadly achieved nothing more. The film format simply doesn’t work as well for Downton Abbey as the episodic TV show format did. This appears to be a rather negative review I’m afraid, but I by no means disliked it, and it was a pleasurable afternoon at the cinema.

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