Star rating: *****
It’s been a long time coming and I admit when Downton Abbey closed its doors on Christmas Day 2015 I was dubious about a movie. Unsure if there was any need to continue and whether the season finale had finished the story adequately. I’ve been a fan of the television show since Downton Abbey first opened its doors so I was torn between one last hoorah and leaving it on a high.
As the years have rolled by with not so much as a sniff of a film on the horizon, have I considered what the Crawley family and their downstairs employees might have been getting up to in the meantime? Absolutely! Thanks to Julian Fellowes, the exceptionally talented writer of one of the nation’s favourite dramas, anyone who may have found themselves wondering about the much-loved characters need wonder no more!
The opening titles gave me goose bumps, there’s always been an element of grandeur when Highclere Castle makes its appearance, however on the big screen, it is magnified and then some. The theme tune lends itself to a movie soundtrack too. Indeed all the promise of a fine follow up were in place from the outset and I wasn’t left disappointed.
You’d have to live in a sack not to have an idea as to the main storyline, the trailers have been teasing us for a while. The King and Queen (Simon Jones and Geraldine James) are paying a visit to Downton Abbey for one night and the excitement and trepidation is palpable! Not least from Mr Molesley (Kevin Doyle) who is champing at the bit to get back into his livery and undoubtedly make a spectacle of himself in true Molesley fashion.
It’s all hands to the pumps as Mrs Patmore (Lesley Nicol) mithers loudly over the menu, raising the hopes of Mr Bakewell (Mark Addy) from whom she buys her supplies. Mr Barrow (Robert-James Collier) appears all too lackadaisical for Lady Mary’s (Michelle Dockery) tastes, he clearly doesn’t measure up in comparison to her beloved Mr Carson (Jim Carter). Cue the reappearance of the retired butler and he couldn’t be more delighted to oblige Lady Mary’s request that he return to the helm. Life at the cottage seems to mostly revolve around trying to find things to occupy himself with while his wife, Mrs Hughes (Phyllis Logan) continues in her role of Housekeeper. Their marriage is still going strong though and indeed the pairing up continues downstairs as Daisy (Sophie McShera) is engaged to Andy (Michael Fox) ~ and there’s a couple of scenes that show Andy’s jealous streak too! Mr Molesley and Miss Baxter persist in dancing around each other, there does appear to be progress although they are moving at an even more glacial place than Carson and Hughes did.
So, with Robert (Hugh Bonneville) and Cora (Elizabeth McGovern) excited to play host to royalty, Lady Edith, now Lady Hexham (Laura Carmichael) and her husband Bertie (Harry Hadden-Paton) en route, all the action is centred around the visit and the impact it has on each individual character. Mr Branson (Allen Leach) is still very much a part of the Crawley family and proves himself to be the hero of the hour in more than one way too when the royals are ensconced at Downton.
One of the strongest storylines happens downstairs when the Downton staff are at war with the King’s staff. Carson certainly meets his match in Mr Wilson (David Haig) and it’s the battle of the chatelaine between Mrs Hughes and Mrs Webb (Richenda Carey). It all hots up when Anna (Joanne Froggatt) and Mr Bates (Brendan Coyle) lead the revolution to claim back their rightful household roles and it’s quite a cunning plan.
Highlights of the movie include a whole host of one-liners delivered expertly by Penelope Wilton, Lesley Nicol, Phyllis Logan and of course Dame Maggie Smith. Plus, Imelda Staunton plays a new character, cousin of Lady Violet (Maggie Smith), Lady Bagshaw. Staunton fits in like a dream, it feels like she was always a part of the cast. The two-hander scene she shared with Penelope Wilton as Isobel was a performance de force from both actresses, a masterclass if ever there was one.
Most of my questions left open from the 2015 season finale are answered and my curiosity satisfied. However, where has Mr Mason got to? Did Mrs Patmore frighten him off? Why did Daisy accept Andy’s marriage proposal if she wasn’t sure at first? Where is Mr Carson’s hand tremor? Maybe these unanswered wonderings are enough to warrant a sequel to the movie?
The glorious locations used, extraordinary attention to detail from the costume department and the intricate yet simple script from Fellowes combined with faultless casting makes this movie one of the biggest hits of 2019, for me. You also can’t fail to be amazed at the uncanny resemblance Geraldine James pays to Queen Mary.
Go and see it, it will make you smile, laugh out loud, reminisce and cry: Downton Abbey Movie