I walked into the theater blind with this one. I never watched an episode of the television series “Downton Abbey,” and despite my attempts at research, I was still a bit lost. With that said, though, it was a pretty enjoyable time.
From what I could pick up, the film takes place following the events of the show, featuring stories of both the Crawley family and those who work at their estate. In this film, the family is welcoming King George and Queen Mary to stay at Downton Abbey as part of a royal tour along the country-side.
Over the course of the visit, the Crawleys have moments of inter-family drama mixed with trying to make a good impression for the Royal Family. The staff, meanwhile, have their own sub-plot where they compete to maintain their service in spite of being pushed aside by the Royal Family’s staff.
“Abbey” comes in right around the two hour mark and it packs a lot in there. Many of the characters, both with the staff and main family have individual stories going on at once and it can be a bit hard to keep track of at times. However, the movie is certainly not convoluted.
While certainly coming across a bit “episodic” because of its TV roots, the “Downton” movie manages to give most of its characters proper time for their tales to play out in good fashion and wrap up nicely. While there’s some conflict here and there, “Abbey” also benefits from a lighthearted charm which creates a soothing viewing experience, making it quite accessible for someone who hasn’t watched the series.
The show earned a multitude of acting awards and nominations over the course of its run and it’s very easy to see why. The cast here is wonderful and one of the benefits of a series adaptation is that all of the actors are very comfortable in their roles. The characters’ wit and banter is so thoroughly well portrayed by the cast, as is the more emotional moments.
Credit also has to go to the set and costume design crew for recreating the 20s period. The movie has an authentic look to it and it really does bring audiences back to that time in tremendous fashion. From the lovely exterior of the main building, to the beautiful dining halls and of course the kitchen where the staff works, it’s all convincing.
Fans of this series should get a lot of enjoyment out of this one, it is a real treat and from what I could tell, the audience I was with had a blast. For those who haven’t watched the show, it may be a little hard to follow, but it’s still an enjoyable, humorous and heartfelt period piece. Perfect for a matinee. 3.5 out of 5.