REVIEW: ‘New Era’ at Downton offers enjoyment, despite shortcomings

I didn’t always know what was going on in the 2019 “Downton Abbey” film since I didn’t watch the series. That was true again here.

However, like its predecessor, it’s still fairly enjoyable.

“New Era” has two main stories unfolding. One revolves around a new film being shot at the Downton estate, where Mary (Michelle Dockery) and Violet (Maggie Smith) are keeping watch of things. While the family is hesitant about the film industry using the building, they allow it as it will provide funding to do needed roof repairs.

Meanwhile, the characters Robert (Hugh Bonneville), Cora (Elizabeth McGovern), Edith (Laura Carmichael), Herbert (Harry Hadden-Patton), Tom (Allen Leech) and Lucy (Tuppence Middleton) travel to southern France to explore a villa Violet inherited. The inheritance was included in the will of a man who Violet met decades ago in her youth.

“Abbey” can be a little intimidating for those who haven’t watched the shows. But if you just sit back, and let the experience play out, there’s enough charm to keep one onboard. Fans of the series, meanwhile, will likely have no issue enjoying this entry.

There’s little major drama in this feature. Developments that first appear like they may have big ramifications soon resolve themselves quite comfortably.

That’s not to say the movie has no intriguing moments, as some subplots so bring about interesting situations, but none of these scenes are what really make “New Era” click. Where the film succeeds is in giving audiences time to spend with these characters who are big on personality.

DowntonNewEraBlog
Courtesy Focus Features

That’s what made the first movie work for someone who hadn’t seen the series, and it’s what carries this picture.

Watching Violet make quips or seeing Mary show some fascination with the filmmaking process at Downton, for example, is engaging. As is the reaction to the movie production at Downton by the staff.

It helps to have a cast so in tune with these characters, too. Everyone on screen feels comfortable with these characters, making it a more immersive experience.

Where “Downton Abbey” falls really short is in its plotting and scene progression. The film is somewhat oddly paced, and can come across as more episodic than cinematic. Some scenes are also far too short as well, cutting off before there’s really a chance for development.

Ultimately, it puts “New Era” on the same level of the first film, it’s an enjoyable enough matinee movie for light entertainment, but not a powerful film experience. 3 out of 5.

Author: Matthew Liedke

Journalist and film critic in Minnesota. Graduate of Rainy River College and Minnesota State University in Moorhead. Outside of movies I also enjoy sports, craft beers and the occasional video game.

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