Downton Abbey: A New Era Review

I made it clear when I reviewed the first film that I consider Downton Abbey to be a guilty pleasure. It doesn’t really say anything about the class system but it is entertaining and a good Sunday afternoon experience. The first film had all the hallmarks of one of the Christmas specials and it’s clear that this film is following in those footsteps.

Taking place in 1929 the film follows two main plots. The lighter one focuses on a film production hiring Downton Abbey for a shoot, with the Crawley family planning to use the fee to fix the roof, with issues coming about through the switch from silent to sound cinema. The other plots has the Dowager Countess reveal that she has come into possession of a villa in the south of France after a relationship she had decades earlier, with several members of the Crawley family going to France to figure out the reason for the villa being given to the family. As with the previous film this has all the makings of one of the Christmas specials with there being other subplots throughout the film, such as Daisy and Andrew feeling annoyed with the presence of Mr Mason in their lives, Thomas potentially finding a more permanent love with the lead actor in the film shooting at Downton, Edith getting back into journalism, the romance between Branson and Lucy, amongst others. They do add to the feeling of nostalgia for the characters throughout the film, although there are events that seem to ignore the previous events, such as the reason for Carson having to step down as butler. It’s also good to see characters that were absent in the first film but who are Downton mainstays like Lady Rosamund and Dr Clarkson pop up and to see resolution to things like the ongoing romance between Moseley and Baxter. I also have to admit that I did get a bit emotional at the ending of the film.

In terms of the main plots, whilst the villa plot is given more attention it does feel like the classic plot for TV adaptations of sending the cast abroad. It also feels like there were parts put in there for meta jokes, such as having Carson and Lady Bagshaw interacting to reference Jim Carter and Imelda Staunton being married in real life. It does lead to good emotional moments at the end of the film though.

The film production element is more interesting. Granted a lot of it is clearly inspired by Singin’ in the Rain, with Laura Haddock’s performance having vibes of Jean Hagen, but it is still entertaining and Hugh Dancy, Dominic West and Alex Macqueen make for fun additions to the cast. There are a few contrivences in this plot, one clearly brought about by Matthew Goode being unable to return and a revelation for Moseley that comes a bit out of left field but there is a good amount of heart and charm throughout.

Overall, Downton Abbey: A New Era is a light, fluffy experience. It doesn’t really say anything and it has all the vibes of one of the Christmas specials but I can’t deny that I had fun with it and I think it is, on the whole, more rewarding than the first film, if only because it’s less overtly ridiculous, more focused and better directed. It is still destined for afternoon showings on ITV, but it is a good bit of fun.

My Rating: 3.5/5

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