Following the long running series and subsequent first big screen outing, we have another helping of the frightfully elitist yet surprisingly popular fictional Grantham family. Perhaps representing a welcome distraction from our current chastened times.
Arguably this has always been the case, with previous lines “what’s a weekend” enabling us ordinary folk to have a good chuckle at the total disconnect with “real life”.
The film concentrates on two main themes, the “Dowager’s” (Maggie Smith) mysterious inheritance of an extensive South of France villa estate from a previous paramour, something that happens to us all at some point.
Secondly, a film crew arriving at Downton Abbey, the latter representing an opportunity for the family to fix the leaking roof whilst putting up with uncouth actor types. With real life imitating art and vice versa, this also allows for plenty of in-jokes at actors expense.
“The New Era” subtitle further indicates change is coming and the film signposts the demise of a central character, to ensure any clutching of pearls is kept to an absolute minimum. As before there are nods to modern sensibilities with “Thomas” (Robert James-Collier) finally getting a bit of a break, albeit handled more sensitively than the previous film’s clumsy sub-plot.
“Mr Carson” (Jim Carter) is somewhat sidelined and increasingly appears surplus to requirements as the family travel south, being available solely as a comedic foil, ensuring fun is made of foreigners and their “strange ways”.
Both Hugh Bonneville and Elizabeth McGovern know a meal ticket when they see one and play Lord and Lady Grantham with their usual aplomb, with a subsequent storyline suddenly resolved, existing as a red herring for the main event.
Kitchen staff “Mrs Patmore” (Lesley Nicol) and “Daisy” (Sophie McShera) get to see glamorous movie stars up close before realising they have feet of clay, nothing a bit of working class common sense can’t sort out though.
Overall despite hinting at major drama to upend the status quo, with emphasis on “status”, all hints of unpleasantness are dealt with over time. This allows the rich and newly entitled “Tom” (Allen Leech) to enjoy their spoils in their beautiful homes and costumes in peace and quiet.
If you enjoyed the series and previous big screen event, there is much to enjoy here, representing a definite step up from the previous film, which descended into near parody.
Whilst not breaking any new ground one can almost hear the loose ends being tidied up to leave everyone in an improved and settled state, even “Mr Molesey” (Kevin Doyle) finally finding his true vocation.