Film Review: DOWNTON ABBEY (UK 2019) ***

Downton Abbey Poster
The continuing story of the Crawley family, wealthy owners of a large estate in the English countryside in the early 20th century.


Michael Engler


Julian Fellowes (characters), Julian Fellowes (screenplay by)

DOWNTON ABBEY is a British historical period drama/comedy written by Julian Fellowes and directed by Michael Engler.  It is a continuation of the television series of the same name, created by Fellowes, that ran on ITV from 2010 to 2015.  Much of the original cast returns, including Hugh Bonneville, Jim Carter, Michelle Dockery, Elizabeth McGovern, Maggie Smith and Penelope Wilton.   If nothing is known of this series, all is not lost.  The film stands on its own.  However, for those familiar and for those with a keen admiration for the series, a lot of nostalgia will be in place.

DOWNTON ABBEY works as the kind of pompous British fare that common audiences (like myself) like to look up to and to admire the British wealthy and royalty.  

The film is set in the fictional Yorkshire country estate of Downton Abbey in 1927, where it depicts the lives of the aristocratic Crawley family and their domestic servants in the post-Edwardian era—with the great events in history having an effect on their lives and on the British social hierarchy. 

TV series transitioned to film need a particular special event.  For the majority of TV series transitioned to film, a vacation abroad seems the most common excuse to warrant a full length feature film outing, examples being MUNSTER, GO HOME, HOLIDAY ON THE BUSES, KEVIN AND PERRY GO LARGE and most recently, ABSOLUTELY FABULOUS.  The excuse here for DOWNTON ABBEY is a royal visit to Downton Abbey by King George V and Queen Mary.

The film is grounded by the main plot of the King’s visit and the extensive preparations that go with the visit.  This main plot is not sufficient to hold the entire movie and several subplots are quite obviously inserted to support the story.  Among them are the gay exploits of the butler as he grows brave enough to eventually find romance in the times when gays were outlawed, the abuse of the Abbey household at the hands of the over-prude royal staff, the attempted assassination of the King, the quarrel of the Smith and Wilton characters and of course, some romance thrown in for good measure.  All work quite well just as the cooperation of the DOWTON ABBEY staff.

Academy Award Winner, Maggie Smith (way back when from THE PRIME OF MISS JEAN BRODIE) is given the script’s best comical punch lines and thus steals the show.  The apt supporting cast do not fare much badly either.

This reviewer who sees more than 350 films annually with no time left for television, has not seen a single episode on TV, so take this review with a grain of salt.  However, a fellow film critic who is a total fan of the series was pleasantly pleased with the full length feature.  DOWNTON ABBEY is a pleasant enough feature on the TV series and with some luck, should win over a few converts as well.



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