DOWNTON ABBEY review. Directed by Michael Engle,r with Hugh Bonnievale, Laura Carmichael, Jim Carter, Michelle Dockery, Joanne Frogget, Matthew Good, Allen Leech, Phyllis Logan, Elizabeth McGovern, Maggie Smith, Imelda Staunton.
THERESA SMITH reviews
Elegant, agreeable entertainment continues the story of the Crawley family and their servants’ never-ending quest to come to grips with post-Edwardian English society.
The historical period drama is set two years after the events of the sixth TV series, so 1927, as the King and Queen of the British Empire come to Downton Abbey.
Excitement is in the air as preparations have to be made and Lady Mary (Dockery) enlists the now retired Carson (Carter) to get everyone correctly focused on what silver needs polishing.
It’s not just the folks at Downton Abbey that are excited, the whole village is agog and we catch a glimpse of the extended hysteria as the characters move about outside the big house.
Flitting from character to character very quickly does at first make the film feel like a trailer until the plot settles on following Tom Branson (Leech). The way this character has grown since his days as newly appointed chauffeur wanting to elope with the youngest daughter of the house makes for a convenient shorthand for everyone’s character development.
The quick flitting does though introduce every character in enough detail so that even a casual viewer who has never seen the TV series will catch what is unfolding.
The Downton Abbey movie – a sweeping feel
Every cutaway to the Dowager Duchess Violet (Smith) plotting to corner her cousin Lady Bagshaw (Staunton) when she accompanies the royal visitors is, as always, a scream. Director Michael Engler surprisingly does not allow a skipped second following a bon mot from TV’s duchess of the burn so you actually miss out on some dialogue because of the inevitable guffaws.
Bringing Downton Abbey to the big screen allows for a sweeping feel courtesy of the movie being shot in widescreen scope aspect (instead of the 16:9 aspect of the TV series). But, mostly the shots are still framed the way the TV series did it – we still get the carefully curated shots of preparations like lawns being cut or tables being laid. The aerial shots of Downton Abbey at sunset, though, make it all look so romantic and epic.
Composer John Lunn’s graceful music does much to speed up the pace of the movie, even when aerial shots linger over fairytale imagery of Downton Abbey and its environs.
While the life and times of the Crawleys have always given us a glimpse into how the landed gentry and aristocracy of the time dealt with a fast changing social structure there is nothing controversial or outré about the Downton Abbey film.
It is buttoned down, clean-cut escapism for fans of all things British who are tired of the Brexit drama. Rather come to Downton Abbey where manners are everything and things get done.
Book Downton Abbey tickets here.
What: Downton Abbey movie review
Downton Abbey South Africa release date: 20 September 2019
Weekend Special review: Theresa Smith reviews
Running time: 123 minutes