by Christie Robb
Like a proper English tea, the Downton Abbey movie delivers a little bit of everything with a light, elegant—sometimes even whimsical—touch.
A royal visit to the titular estate in 1927 provides the inciting incident that reunites fans of the popular TV series with the Crawley family and their domestic staff. The film starts with a lengthy show recap (for those who haven’t anticipated the film by binge-watching all six seasons). It then squeezes at least half a season’s worth of drama into a two-hour runtime.
No spoilers here, but expect familiar Downton themes delivered in unexpected ways: violence, illness, romance, jealousy, snobbery, inheritance issues, reputation anxiety, surprise Crawley cousins, and buffoonery provided by a certain sad-sack ex-valet.
Unlike the excellent series finale that neatly wrapped up every character’s storyline, the film does not focus equally on all the main characters. Director Michael Engler returns from the TV version, and the film reads more as a continuation of the story than an extended epilogue, much like an extra-long Christmas special without the holiday bit.
Still, the Downton movie’s production values are a tad higher, providing extended drone shots of the impressive house and grounds. There are more sets, showing us previously unseen rooms inside the Abbey, a bit more of the village, and a neighboring, even fancier abode that hosts a ball.
The ensemble cast slips effortlessly back into their former roles, highlighted by the Dowager Countess (Maggie Smith) and Isobel Merton (née Crawley, Penelope Wilton) and their delicious repartee full of sniping and droll bon mots.
This is definitely a film made for fans of the show, as a newbie would probably be completely lost even with the recap. But for those who spent 2011-2016 devouring the show like a warm scone fresh out of the oven, the movie is a delightfully unnecessary, but very welcome, treat.