The Reel Review
With its sweeping, sumptuous visuals and its rousing, iconic score, the aristocratic Crawley family and their servants are back in this big screen follow-up to the wildly popular TV series set in early 20th century England. The story picks up in 1927, a year and a half after the series finale, with news that King George and Queen Mary are planning an overnight visit to Downton. Time to polish the silver – the royals are coming!
Show creator Julian Fellowes, who won an Oscar in 2002 for his screenplay for Gosford Park, succeeds where many TV shows-turned-movies have fallen short – he has assembled an entertaining story that remains faithful to the spirit of the series, blending old familiarity with new twists, its subplots meticulously choreographed to culminate in an immensely crowd-pleasing, heartfelt finale.
All of his characters get an ample share of screen time, with the choicest one-liners going to Maggie Smith’s Dowager Countess. Costuming, with its vast array of period gowns, is also outstanding. Yes, some of the sub plots – particularly those involving Branson (Allen Leech) – are contrived – but even their silliness is countered by his good natured charm.
Moviegoers would be well advised to watch the TV series BEFORE watching this film, as this movie is laser focused towards longtime Downton fans – and to that effort, it is superb.
• The movie’s plot is based on actual facts. King George V and Queen Mary were regular visitors to Yorkshire in the 1920s, staying at estates while in the area to visit their daughter and grandchildren and while en route to their Scottish estate, Balmoral.
• Tuppence Middleton (Lucy), Allen Leech (Branson) and Matthew Goode (Henry Talbot) also appeared together in 2014’s The Imitation Game.
• Imelda Staunton, who is married to Jim Carter (Mr. Carson) in real life, also appeared with Maggie Smith in 2007’s Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.