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Downton Abbey - Review

by Theresa Peteranna


It has been four years since we last saw inside Downton Abbey, the splendid fictional estate set in the real Highclere Castle. Through the show’s six seasons, we laughed, cried and sympathised with the pompous Crawley family and the servants of the household. Now, the same characters and setting have been uprooted and relocated to the cinema to the delight of its fervent fans.

For its admirers, the sentimental theme track and longshots of the estate will take you back to many cosy nights on sofas watching ITV2 nipping away for cups of tea during the breaks. It raises the question: “why a film rather than a TV special?” The plot and timeframe could be kept easily within the confines of TV. One benefit is the projection of the exquisite detail of Downton Abbey from its architecture, furnishings and glamourous inhabitants. The roaring twenties is a field day for the costume designers who lavish characters such as the cool Mary Crawley (Michelle Dockery) in silk, pearls and a bobbed haircut.

If you did not invest many hours becoming acquainted with the Crawley family, it is worth doing your homework. A quick glance through the show’s Wikipedia page will do. The creator and screenwriter, Julian Fellows, omits a recap of where we last saw the many lead characters in their life. Not to worry, as the dynamics of the family are quickly fleshed out and those with titles are either fussed upon or self-important.

To view, the film is pleasant and predictable. It is a fluffy PG with no real tangible threat despite a little security mishap during the royal visit, which is at the centre of the plot. The real stakes are for the humorous and dedicated staff at Downton. For the servants are genuinely thrilled to serve, the film’s laughs come from serving the royal family’s supper or spilling jam on a clean-breasted shirt. Upstairs, Dame Maggie Smith’s reprise as the steamroller dowager steals scenes with her quick quips and stern expressions.

If you have a nagging friend dusting off their old DA boxsets and memorabilia desperate to go but with no one to go with, do a good deed and see it with them. Downton Abbey is essentially an extended episode pandering to its loyal audiences and shot no differently. The big screen’s purpose, then, seems purely to upscale the visual splendour of the film to keep any DA expert or novice interested.


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