The Reel Review
1928 ushers in change and new adventures at Downton Abbey, when much of the aristocratic family visits the South of France after the dowager countess inherits a villa from a long-lost suitor. Back at Downton, Lady Mary oversees the rental of the estate to a film crew to help pay for a sorely-needed new roof, in this second film installment to the hugely popular TV series.
Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes knows how to assemble a joyous, feel good bit of escapism. Brimming with pearls of wisdom, wit and charm, Downton Abbey: A New Era takes an exciting leap into the moment when movies evolved from silent films to talkies. Hugh Dancy (Late Night, Ella Enchanted), Dominic West (Tomb Raider, Collette) and Laura Haddock (Guardians of the Galaxy) are new additions – as the frazzled film director and his two silent film stars facing an uncertain future.
Following the same formula of his successful 2019 film, Fellowes incorporates these new arrivals into the lives of his beloved characters – giving a surprising number of them their moment to shine. Michelle Dockery’s Mary saves the day when she provides the voiceover for Haddock’s gorgeous but dubiously-accented film star. Haddock is terrific and no one can quite master Dockery’s ability to show elegant, restrained surprise. West, as the film’s dashing leading man, becomes the very understated romantic interest for Downton butler Barrow (Robert James-Collier), in a nice nod to the show’s LGBTQ fans.
Daisy (Sophie McShera) gets some big moments, with Mr. Carson (Jim Carter) and Molesley (Kevin Doyle) serving as good-natured comic relief. Hugh Bonneville’s Lord Grantham turns on the emotion as he copes with a possible trifecta of major life changes. And as always, Maggie Smith, as the increasingly frail dowager, still has ALL of the clever one-liners.
Fans of the series and prior hit film will absolutely adore this well-crafted, briskly-paced two hours of fan service. It wears like a newly-rediscovered, favorite old sweater, bringing with it familiar smells, laughs, and a heaping dose of tears to its big climax. Not surprisingly, Fellowes has done it again. Bravo!
• Downton Abbey: A New Era director Simon Curtis (The Art of Racing in the Rain, Woman in Gold) has been married to its star Elizabeth McGovern since 1992. They have two daughters and live in Chiswick, London.
• In one scene, Lady Bagshaw and Mr. Carson are mistaken for a married couple. Imelda Staunton and Jim Carter have been married in real life since 1983.
• Laura Carmichael was pregnant while filming part of the film. She gave birth to a baby boy in March 2021 with Michael Fox, who plays Daisy’s husband, footman Andy.