Downton Abbey ~ Malvern Cinemas

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

Downton Abbey Movie ~ Is It Too Late?

I’m a self-confessed fan of the popular ITV series Downton Abbey, to the point of fan-girling, checking out the fandom activity and feeling fairly bereft when the Abbey closed its doors at Christmas back in 2015. News of a movie to enable Downton’s enthusiastic following to take another peek into the upstairs and downstairs goings on was met excitedly, by me and by fellow fans of the Fellowes drama.

However, as the years have rolled by with (from what we mere members of the public could tell) not so much as a sniff of a script and longstanding cast members almost continuously cagey when asked questions about a possible movie by the media, the question mark over the potential movie hovered precariously. As a blogger who predominantly covers theatre I was delighted to discover so many of my favourite actors from the drama series treading the boards. Phyllis Logan toured with Noel Coward’s ‘Present Laughter’ which in turn offered a superb opportunity I might not otherwise have had.¬† I took a trip to Chiswick to carry out an interview and enjoyed coffee and croissants with Ms Logan while I was at it, she’s an actor who has been high on my radar since she played Lady Jane in Lovejoy. Her colleague, Lesley Nicol opened my eyes to fantastic and extremely worthy charities, so I was over the moon (bears!) to interview her for my blog, too. With the vast majority of the show’s famous faces being kept busy in various ‘jobs’ (just check out the credits that Lily James who played Lady Rose has wracked up!) the movie seemed a distant and not so urgent thought.

Phyllis Logan appeared in the UK tour of Noel Coward’s Present Laughter in 2016.

When the announcement of impending filming broke, not so long ago, and just over 2 1/2 years after the festive finale, my initial reaction wasn’t to jump for joy. What year are they planning on setting it in was top of my list of queries. Are we picking up straight after their new year celebrations therefore following Mr Carson’s (Jim Carter) journey of enforced retirement or will we pick it up long after life has changed for Downton’s inhabitants? I’m the first to admit that my over-active imagination already sees the Carsons living a different life and has Mrs Patmore paired off with widowed hanger-on, Mr Mason (Paul Copley).

With the Downton Abbey film’s release date now set for 20th September 2019, my humble opinion of a movie following long after momentum has been lost has shifted. I think it was the Instagram post from Michelle Dockery (the ever-popular Lady Mary – follow her: https://www.instagram.com/theladydockers/ to check out the post I’m referring to) that not only cemented in my mind that this IS happening, but also transported me back to the good old days when social media buzzed with anticipation of the next series of Downton Abbey. I recalled the Duchess of Cambridge visiting the set while the final series was in production, the excitement surrounding that was palpable. So maybe regaining some of that old Downton Abbey-inspired joy will be just the ticket for 2019?

One thing’s for sure, I’ve moved from sceptic to eagerly awaiting and hope beyond hope that Fellowes won’t let us down! In fact, I have one plea to make – do what you will with all of the characters but please let Mrs Patmore be happy!! Back in the day I would have begged for Lady Edith’s (Laura Carmichael) happiness, however unless a curve ball is coming our way, it seems that her future was looking rosy by the time we bid au revoir to the Crawley family.

Bring on 20th September 2019, then…

 

Photo Credits: ITV & Nobby Clark 

 

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