There’s no question that we’ve seen a precipitous decline of all things civilized in the three years since the wrap party for the beloved English period drama Downton Abbey. So having the chance for a two-hour break from all things ‘modern media’ to immerse oneself in the frivolous and fripperous trappings of 1920’s English high society seems just about right; and the quite anxiously awaited new Downton Abbey film brings the flouncy escapism in abundance.
It opens with the assumption that we know all the central characters, and of course we do. Within five minutes we’ve been thrust back into the upstairs/downstairs world of the Crawleys and their formidable support staff, as they are presented with the main story arc of the film…an upcoming visit by their highnesses the King and Queen no less!
Heavens what will Mrs. Patmore cook?! What will Lady Edith wear?! And how many caustic barbs will the Dowager Countess get in before supper???!!!
While the film feels like an immediate extension of the television show – a new episode after a long break – unlike the series, in which each episode focused on smaller stories involving a handful of characters, here we have multiple story arcs deftly fitted into its two-hour time frame; any sense of leisurely languidness is left in the dust.
Some of the plots are of course more charming, intimate and satisfying than the grand events surrounding the royal visit. Without giving too much away, we were chuffed to see Mr. Barrow, now with a touch of grey, discover a world he had only dreamed of; and seven years after becoming a widower, it seems Tom Branson might at last be getting back in the saddle. Whoever Laura Carmichael’s (she plays Lady Edith) agent is, bravo on the insistence of some “indiscreet,” partially dressed scenes, which should ruffle a few Tory feathers even now.
Downton Abbey the film is, naturally, stunningly shot, very well written, and will most likely be a smash. And its brisk pace will hold rapt even the Downton neophytes. Yet we were most happy when things slowed down and the action was confined to a couple of characters – specifically towards the end when Violet confides a secret to Mary, and gives her the Goodbye To All That defying “Downton must go on even in these modern times“ speech.
Surely the inevitable sequels will see to it that her wish is decisively filled.