Tag Archives: Hugh Bonneville

Upstairs, Downstairs

Downton Abbey: A New Era

by Hope Madden

The Crawleys exit the roaring 20s a bit cash-strapped (can’t fix the roof but can holiday en masse, butlers in tow). Fans of the long-running series, now unleashing its second feature film, can rest easy. Heads held high, the family is ready to face a new decade with new leadership and the same old posh spirit.

Elegant escapism of the breeziest order, Downton Abbey: A New Era follows the idle rich through the travails of trying to remain both idle and rich. Now about that attic.

It seems a film producer hopes to shoot a movie in Downton. Lord Grantham (Hugh Bonneville) wants no part of it, but Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery) is running the show now. She hates to seem common, but the fee will fix those leaks.

Of course, the servants are thrilled to have real-life movie stars in the building. All except Mr. Carson (Jim Carter), who can’t bear to see the family stoop so low. Why, the Queen of England sat right at that table!

Meanwhile, Lady Grantham (Maggie Smith, scene-stealing, as is her way) is surprised to have inherited a French villa from a man she knew many wistful years ago. Mysterious? Or is it scandalous?!

So, off half the family goes to investigate, leaving Lady Mary and the servants to contend with the handsome director (Hugh Dancy), charming actor (Dominic West) and dour actress (Laura Haddock).

The old gang has fun stretching their familiar characters a bit for the big screen, although director Simon Curtis (My Week with Marilyn) has a tough time staging the interior conversations as anything more than expensive TV set pieces.

Still, the expansive grounds are gorgeous and Nice is gorgeous, and it can be restful to spend a full two hours where the stakes are no higher than whether or not the world will remember granny as a tramp.

Downton Abbey is a really well-dressed, well-acted, well-produced, uptight soap opera. Droll dialog, stunning locales and exquisite costuming elevate each scene to something more than a guilty pleasure, but the film’s sites never veer from its target audience.

Written by Victors

Viceroy’s House

by Rachel Willis

History is written by the victors.

So begins Gurinder Chadha’s Viceroy’s House, a film that focuses on the transition of power from England to India and the partition of India into two countries. It’s an interesting sentiment as the film seeks to show that in the transition of power, there are no victors.

With a history such as India’s, Chadha makes the wise decision to focus the bulk of the story within the confines of the viceroy’s house and grounds. The film opens with the arrival of India’s last viceroy from England, Lord Mountbatten, with his family. Because of the intimacy of the setting, the audience is privy to the negotiations between the British and the leaders of India. Many will recognize Mahatma Gandhi, but may not be familiar with the other leaders, including the head of the All-Indian Muslim League Muhammad Ali Jinnah, who led the charge to partition India with the creation of Pakistan.

In addition to the wider story focused on this transition of power, a more personal tale is woven behind the scenes through the love affair of Aalia and Jeet. Aalia is a Muslim woman in love with Jeet, a Hindu. As tensions between Hindu, Sikh, and Muslims rise, the two are pulled in different directions as family and religion come between them. Their story provides the audience with a more personal connection to the conflicts that arise as Lord Mountbatten tries to negotiate a peaceful transition of power.

As Lord Mountbatten, Hugh Bonneville plays a familiar role, as those who have seen him in Downton Abbey will recognize the similarities between characters. Gillian Anderson is his wife Edwina Mountbatten. Flawless as always, Anderson is almost underutilized in her role. However, the scenes in which she does appear are riveting. The two are sympathetic as they try to avoid a violent passage of power.

However, the film truly belongs to Huma Qureshi and Manish Dayal. As Aalia and Jeet, they bring life and hope to a movie racked with conflict. As tensions rise, their love is a light in the dark. Though the history of India may be written by the victors, it’s the stories of the people who live through it that connect us to the past.

As a love story, as a history, Viceroy’s House is a moving examination of a tumultuous moment in India’s history.