Downton Abbey A New Era Review

The End of an Era: a Review of ‘Downton Abbey: A New Era’

In this current world that seems so crazy and messy and chaotic, ‘Downton Abbey: A New Era’ becomes a breath of fresh air.

I have been an avid fan of the series ‘Downton Abbey‘ since it first came out back in 2010. I have seen all six seasons (the series is available on Netflix) when they came out and even caught the movie that was released in 2019. So watching a new ‘Downton Abbey’ movie has the same feeling as that of coming home. I’ve lived (and loved) these characters for over 20 years now. It has been three years since the last film and I don’t remember much about it. But just after ten or fifteen minutes into the sequel, ‘Downton Abbey: A New Era,’ everything just came rushing back.

For those who have loved these characters, it’s really like having a family reunion.

While series creator Julianne Fellowes is still the scriptwriter and Gareth Neame and Liz Trubridge producing, Simon Curtis takes over the directing helm. Even with a new director, the movie still feels like the series. Curtis seems very much aware of the little details of each character and their dynamics with each other that he manages to capture it in such a seamless manner.

After all, even with its soap opera-ish narratives, the true joy of watching any ‘Downton Abbey’ content, whether it’s the series or the movies, is its dignity and elegance and the deep relationships of these characters. A lot of the stories in the show are familiar and universal. What makes these characters so endearing is their interactions with each other.

The whole cast has returned and they fit back into their roles effortlessly. The slight changes are evident – Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery) has come to fully accept her role as the head of Downton Abbey despite the absence of her adventurous husband; Edith (Laura Carmichael) is happier and more confident; Tom Branson (Allen Leech) feels most at ease now with the family having found someone of his own through Lucy (Tuppence Middleton); Carson (Jim Carter) is struggling with retirement while Barrow (Robert James-Collier) has come into his own as Downton Abbey’s new butler, and the like – and we just pick up from where we left off in the last film.

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Review of Downton Abbey A New Era
Photo: Universal Pictures

At a hundred and twenty-five minutes, ‘Downton Abbey: A New Era” begins like just any other episode of the series but as the story unfolds, it starts to become clear that there seems to be a finality to all of this. The story happens in two parts working simultaneously. 

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The first story is set in a villa in the south of France, which Lady Violet (Maggie Smith) inherited from an old suitor over 50 years ago who has just passed away. Lady Violet has given the villa to Sybil, Tom’s daughter. Invited by the suitor’s son and wife, the family must uncover the mystery of such an expensive inheritance from a suitor Lady Violet had only met for just a week. 

The second story is set in Downton Abbey when a film production wants to use the manor as a set for a movie. While the idea is considered “crass” and too lowly for such a distinguished house, the payment for rent would greatly help to maintain the expensive manor and Lady Mary agrees. The arrival of film stars into the manor turns everything upside-down, including another potential suitor for Lady Mary, who is questioning whether her husband truly loves her or not.

Review of Downton Abbey A New Era
Photo: Universal Pictures

When Downton Abbey first came out in 2010, it was deemed as a study between class divisions – the lives and troubles of the people “upstairs” (the upper class) and those “downstairs” (the lower class) – it was a way to peer into, dissect, and criticize the complex class system of Britain.

As the seasons of the show progressed, it became clear that series creator Julian Fellowes was showing how unnecessary and even backward this idea of such a class system is. There is just as much goodness and nobility in the people downstairs and just as much prejudice and untoward behavior from the people upstairs. I have always felt that Fellowes has been criticizing this class system but he also treats it with such love and reverence. 

In ‘Downton Abbey: A New Era,’ he once again brings in more elements that question this system. The “crass movie people” that have come into Downton Abbey juxtaposes the changes in the film industry from silent film to film with sound (the ‘talkies’) with that of the class system; it is a sign that the world is moving forward. On the other hand, the story in the South of France puts into light the question of dynasties when the secret behind the relationship of Lady Violet and her suitor puts Lord Grantham’s (Hugh Bonneville) whole life into question.

Review of Downton Abbey A New Era
Photo: Universal Pictures

While the film (and the whole series) can serve as a study and criticism of this British elitist class system, the way it treats its characters of high rank and status with so much care and love is now a little uncomfortable for me as I am now older and more aware of these systems of inequality. What saves ‘Downton Abbey: A New Era’ is how wonderfully familiar these characters have become and that at the very center of this movie – and the whole series, for that matter – is the warm and tender heart at its core. There is elegance, grace, dignity, and goodness in all the stories of ‘Downton Abbey.’

In this current world that seems so crazy and messy and chaotic, ‘Downton Abbey’ becomes a breath of fresh air. It is a pleasant watch that brings you back to the days when everything felt more civil, more polite. And for that, I will always treasure this show and its movies.

My Rating:

5 stars - Don't Look Up review





Downton Abbey: A New Era’ opens in Phillippine cinemas on Wednesday, May 18, released exclusively at selected Ayala Malls Cinemas. Buy your tickets here.

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Film Facts: Five Things to Know About ‘Downton Abbey: A New Era’

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Downton Abbey: A New Era
Drama, Romance
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