Downton Abbey: A New Era-2022
Starring Hugh Bonneville, Michelle Dockery, Maggie Smith
Scott’s Review #1,261
Reviewed May 30, 2022
Following the success of the 2019 film version of the television series Downton Abbey which ran on PBS from 2010-to 2015, a sequel was made. This was unsurprising given the fan-favorite being critically and commercially well-received.
Downton Abbey: A New Era (2022) will undoubtedly please fans of the series and may even recruit new audiences who may not have been exposed to it yet.
The trials and tribulations of the Crawley’s, friends, and staff are a treat as new situations and drama arise for the group to sift through as they discuss matters over tea and crumpets.
The film is like visiting a cherished friend after a few years apart.
Award-winning creator Julian Fellowes is thankfully still involved and was given screenwriting credit. This means that the formula is still the same and nobody has tried to reinvent the wheel or veer the characters off course.
This time out the year is 1928. The main action centers around the sudden news that grand dame Violet Crawley, Dowager Countess of Grantham (Maggie Smith) has inherited a villa in the south of France from a former suitor who has just died. Some of the family must travel to France and figure out the mystery.
Secondly, A film production company requests to use Downton for a silent film. Robert (Hugh Bonneville) and retired butler Mr. Carson (Jim Carter) disapprove, but Robert’s eldest daughter and estate manager, Lady Mary Talbot (Michelle Dockery), says the income would cover replacing Downton’s leaking roof.
The household staff is eager to see the film stars and scrambles to make things as lovely as possible for the incoming actors.
The terrific thing about Downtown Abbey: A New Era is that nearly all of the nearly thirty principal characters are given some sort of storyline.
Plus there are a handful of new characters to give screen time to.
Surprisingly, as in Downton Abbey (2019), the main ‘super couple’, servants Anna (Joanne Froggatt) and Bates (Brendan Coyle) are given almost nothing to do. They are seen but their child is not and some drama would have been nice. Perhaps a mysterious illness or a malady for the couple to endure?
Maybe next time.
Still, everyone else is represented and the feeling for viewers is warm and fuzzy.
Below are some highlights.
Robert frets at the possibility that he may be half french and his birth a result of a tryst between Violet and the villa owner. Mary’s absent husband allows for a flirtation to develop between her and a member of the film. Gay butler Thomas (Robert James-Collier) finds himself pursued by the film’s big star.
Cora (Elizabeth McGovern) keeps a health secret, while a bed-ridden Violet’s health declines. Newlywed servants Daisy (Sophie McShera) and Andy (Michael Fox) scheme to unite his lonely father with the cook, Mrs. Patmore (Lesley Nicol).
Finally, Miss Baxter (Raquel Cassidy) eagerly awaits a marriage proposal from nervous Mr. Molesley (Kevin Doyle).
In addition, new characters like actors Guy Dexter (Dominic West), Myrna Dalgleish (Laura Haddock), and director Jack Barber (Hugh Dancy) are instant fan favorites, immediately connecting with mainstay characters.
This is ingenious writing that can be a lesson for any soap opera writer. Always write new characters by sharing stories with existing ones rather than writing in silos. It works wonders.
The historical relevance of approaching the 1930s is not missed as ‘talkies’ taking over the film industry meant the kiss of death for most silent film stars.
The popular LGBTQ+ storyline is wonderfully written. A gay man in 1928 was doomed to either a life of hiding or one of loneliness and one character wisely references a ‘cruel world’ in regards to the viewpoint of the lifestyle.
Times were not changing just yet.
I am crossing my fingers that a third Downton Abbey film will be made. The characters and storylines still have life especially as the timeline progresses into the 1930s and the dire 1940s when World War II commences.
Downtown Abbey: A New Era (2022) proves that in the Covid-19 times a trusted old friend is needed tremendously. Even by way of the silver screen.