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Review of highly entertaining ‘Downton Abbey: A New Era’ with its classy production
FANS of the hit British historical drama series, “Downton Abbey”, that started in 2010, ran for five seasons and had a hit movie in 2019, will surely enjoy the second movie it has spawned:
“Downton Abbey: A New Era”. This was shown without any publicity so it was quickly pulled out of the Ayala cinemas where it was released.
The show chronicles the lives of the Aristocratic Crawleys, idle rich who belong to England’s ruling class. They live in the upper part of their palatial home while their servants live downstairs.
The show gained lots of fans worldwide because it is well written by Julian Fellowes (the expert on this kind of costume drama as demonstrated in his recent hit series, “The Gilded Age”) and the characters are truly endearing. It also touches on true historical events like the sinking of the Titanic, the First World War and the Spanish Flu epidemic of 1918, winning much acclaim and many awards.
The show started in the year 1912, introducing Robert Crawley or Lord Grantham (Hugh Bonneville), his American wife Cora (Elizabeth McGovern), and their three daughters: Michelle Dockery as Lady Mary , Laura Carmichael as Lady Edith and Jessica Findlay as Lady Sybil. An important member of the family is Violet Crawley, Dowager Countess of Grantham (Maggie Smith.) There are many other characters that come and go in the course of the very successful show.
The new movie is now set in 1928 and starts with a wedding scene. Tom Branson (Allen Leech), the widowed husband of Sybill Crawley who died while delivering their baby Sybbie, is now remarrying and the bride is Lucy Smith (Tuppence Middleton), the secret illegitimate daughter of Lady Bagshaw (Imelda Staunton) and her sole heir.
Lady Violet then tells her family that the Marquis de Montmirail, who she met in 1864, has left to her name a beautiful villa in the south of France. The new Marquis invites their family to visit the villa. So the new film will have two settings: the villa in France and the stately Downton countryside manor.
A movie company asks Lord Grantham if they could use Downton as the setting of a silent film they are shooting. He resists the idea, but Mary tells him that what they’ll earn from the shoot can be used for repairs of Downton, specially its leaking roof.
The movie then alternates in showing us what is happening in France and in Downton during the shoot. Lord Grantham starts to suspect that his mom and the marquis had an affair and that his real father is the marquis. In Downton, Jack Barber (Hugh Dancy), the fim’s director, starts having problems but Mary is on hand to give him some valuable suggestions that might help his silent film which is now facing competition from movies that talk with sound.
Barber is obviously smitten with Mary but she remains faithful to her second husband, Talbot (Matthew Goode, present in the first movie but absent here), who’s currently doing some business abroad. The stunningly beautiful Michelle Dockery once again shines in the role and we like it when she says: “Marriage is a novel, not a short story.”
There are many subplots involving all the other characters upstairs and downstairs to keep the film interesting and engrossing from start to finish. And they are so beautifully interwoven that they never get unwieldy or messy.
The most absorbing subplot involves Lady Violet and why a French nobleman she had known for only one week would leave a luxurious villa in her name. All the conflicts are eventually resolved in satisfying ways. The Downton servants are thrilled to see top actors in person and hey, they are later given the chance to dress up and also appear in the movie! This is pure pleasure to watch on screen.
Among the new stars who join the film for the first time, the ones who get the best roles are Dominic West as Hollywood actor Guy Dexter who finds romance with the Downton butler, Barrow (Robert James Collier), and Laura Haddock as the silent film actress Myrna Dalgleish who dreads the transition to talking films ala-’Singing in the Rain”.
Top credit should go to writer Julian Fellowes for concocting a screenplay that is surely a feel good film for both regular and new Downton viewers. It would help, of course, if you’re familiar with the beloved characters and more or less know their backgrounds. The film is a tearjerker as one of the major characters makes a final exit. The funeral scene was beautifully staged and filmed by Director Simon Curtis. We were tearing up like we lost a close relative.
Production values set in the Roaring 20s are elegant and the cinematography offers a new color palette with the scenes set in France. One thing we love about “Downton Abbey” is its exquisitely uplifting musical score. The moment we hear it in the opening credits, we get hooked and enthralled immediately.
The film has many amusing and laugh out loud moments, many of them contributed by the self-entitled Lady Violet with her sharp wit and tongue. And so, the Crawleys welcome the modern times, always adapting with class and having us cheer for everyone involved.