By Michael Renouf
The TV series ran for 52 episodes and this 2-hour film set in 1927 will delight fans with the return of many regulars.
Full disclosure, I have never seen one episode of the 6 seasons, so I watched the film through fresh eyes and with no preconceptions.
Downton Abbey is the story of an upper-class family, the Crawleys and their servants set in Yorkshire in the north of England – although it is filmed using Highclere Castle, Newbury in the south.
At the beginning of the film a letter is delivered which tells of the upcoming visit of the King and Queen. Much panic and discussion ensue as to what will be the correct protocol for such a momentous occasion, especially amongst the household’s staff, who we will soon learn will have their collective nose put out of joint.
Before the royals arrive Lady Mary Talbot (Michelle Dockery) is fearful that the current butler Thomas Barrow (Robert James-Collier) will let the side down so enlists the help of the former butler, Mr. Carson (Jim Carter) without running the idea past the Earl (Hugh Bonneville) first.
All this fretting was not necessary as when the royal servants turn up they take over the running of the household, led by bolshie royal butler, Mr. Wilson (David Haig), sorry I mean ‘Page of the Backstairs’ and upsetting the Downton staff to such a degree that they plot an uprising to side-line the royal servants during the royal visit.
The film has many twists and turns, most of which Stevie Wonder could spot a mile off on a foggy day on the Yorkshire moors. Nevertheless, this is an enjoyable gentle film with some excellent acting from many stalwarts of British television.
I especially enjoyed the relationship between Violet Crawley (Maggie Smith) and Isobel Merton (Penelope Wilton) whose character represents the viewer in that she can see both sides of any situation that crops up.
I must point out only a very small fraction of Britain lives or has ever lived like this – even less after the Great War as the elite who served as officers were hit disproportionately hard during this conflict, with many families losing the heirs to their estates.
I mention this as I once overheard an American lady – one who I guess had her whole view of Britain informed by an episode of the period drama – make some cringe inducing remarks. Now while I am sure most Asbury Insider readers have a more informed view of their cousins from across the pond there is always the one at the back who has not been paying attention.
In summary, compulsory viewing for fans of the show but also watchable as a stand-alone film for Downton virgins like your truly.
This week’s star of the show is definitely Dame Maggie Smith.
3.5 out of 5
An enjoyable gentle film with some excellent acting from many stalwarts of British television.
Compulsory viewing for fans of the show but also watchable as a stand-alone film for Downton virgins.