REVIEW: ‘Downton Abbey: A New Era’ Is A Film Made With Fans In Mind

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Downton Abbey A New Era - But Why Tho

Downton Abbey: A New Era is a Focus Feature film based on the television series of the same name, written by series creator Julian Fellowes and directed by Simon Curtis. As the 1920’s wind down, Downton Abbey and its inhabitants are undergoing a number of changes. The Dowager Countess of Grantham, Violet Crawley (Dame Maggie Smith), shocks her family with the news that she’s inherited a village in France from the late Marquis de Montmirail. Robert Crawley (Hugh Bonneville) and his family go to visit the Marquis’ son in France, but Robert soon learns a potential secret that might upend everything he’s ever thought about his life. Meanwhile, the other residents of Downton Abbey play host to a film production company while the feature film The Gambler is being shot inside the local estate; they have to deal with the demand of The Gambler‘s stars (Dominic West and Laura Haddock) as well as sparks of chemistry between Lady Mary Talbot (Michelle Dockery) and director Jack Barber (Hugh Dancy).

While this isn’t the first Downton Abbey film, the fact that this television series has spawned two movies is a testament to its immense popularity. Downton joins a rare club of television series that includes Bob’s Burgers and Trollhunters, with the former’s big-screen debut happening this week and the latter spawning an entire universe of shows in addition to a feature film for Netflix. And it’s also remarkable that Fellowes has continued to guide the series through its theatrical endeavors; that’s a level of creative control that’s rare in the world of television, not to mention Hollywood.

Curtis also wants to make sure the audience knows that he’s working with a movie budget. Long, sweeping shots of the Abbey are present throughout the film, especially at the “golden hour” – the end result is awe-inspiring. And there are also plenty of scenic views of France thanks to cinematographer Andrew Dunn, including sunny beach shots and a candlelit dinner party. Simply put this is one gorgeous-looking movie. Even the scenes where people are standing talking look beautiful!

However, what audiences get out of A New Era will vary based on how big of a fan they are of the television series. There are six seasons of the television series, as well as the first film – that’s a lot of ground to cover story-wise and casual viewers may feel lost. I’d only watched a handful of Downton Abbey episodes back in the day since my mom and then-girlfriend were fans of the show, so I was thankful that my screening had a recap of the first film. And Fellowes’ scripting is a bit predictable: I called one of the bigger plot twists at the halfway point.

In the end, the greatest strength of this film is its cast – especially Smith, whose Countess of Grantham is always ready with a witty comeback or pithy observation. “I will say goodnight… and leave you to discuss my mysterious past,” she says after dropping the bombshell about the villa, in one of the funniest moments of the film. Dockery and Dancy’s chemistry is also a major part of the film, as Lady Mary ends up helping Barber out when the film hits a rough spot. It’s Bonneville who gets the lion’s share of the emotional moments: Robert is going through it in this movie and you can’t help but feel for the man. True to its subtitle, A New Era is all about change. Change can be wonderful or painful, but it is a constant and no one escapes it.

Downton Abbey: A New Era will either charm or confound its audience, based on how connected they are to the original television series.  If you enjoyed the original Downton Abbey series – or you’re looking for something to scratch that Bridgerton itch – this is a film that’s up your alley. And older audiences will probably enjoy

Downton Abbey: A New Era is currently playing in theaters.


Downton Abbey: A New Era 
  • 7.5/10
    Rating - 7.5/10
7.5/10

TL;DR

Downton Abbey: A New Era will either charm or confound its audience, based on how connected they are to the original television series.  If you enjoyed the original Downton Abbey series – or you’re looking for something to scratch that Bridgerton itch – this is a film that’s up your alley. And older audiences will probably enjoy