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Downton Abbey

February 19, 2022

Downton Abbey (2019)
Director: Michael Engler
Actors: Hugh Bonneville, Michelle Dockery, Maggie Smith

Synopsis: In 1927, the Crawleys receive word that the Royal Family will visit Downton Abbey.

Review: Predicated on a high level of familiarity with the television series, Downton Abbey is a solid enough feature film spin-off, built around the comprehensible commercial conceit of a royal visit to Downton causing excitement and consternation in all the abbey’s associated personnel. In truth though, the royal conceit is a touch silly, culminating (spoiler alert) in the pantomime crowd-pleaser of a development that sees the downstairs Downton staff usurp their Crown counterparts on royal duties.

The series’ ultimate focus on class has always betrayed it as a fundamentally conservative saga at heart. Even here, where some nods to social change are made (more on that anon), the narrative always sides on the finding of something valorous and honourable about both the upstairs and downstairs ways of life.

As with the TV series, the two Toms here are the most interesting characters and get the best storylines. Probably the film’s most moving subplot therefore, is in giving the necessarily-closeted gay character, Thomas Barrow, a first requited moment of affection with another man, in a poignant scene that reminds the audience that homosexuality was still considered illegal at the time (in fact, it wasn’t to be legalised until 1967 – still a whole 40 years after the events of this narrative). (February 2022)

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