The world of ‘Downton Abbey’ is one that I’m fond of but in all honesty, I haven’t been part of for that long a time. Funnily enough, it was the first cinematic outing of the franchise back in 2019 that got me interested in watching the show. I binged the entire thing or let’s say most of it in October and I went to the cinemas, excited and slightly burned out ready to see the ‘Downton Abbey’ movie on the big-screen! It was truly a fantastic experience, being surrounded by legions of older British fans excited to watch their favourite characters again and share a special moment. It genuinely saddens me that I didn’t get a chance to watch this new instalment in cinemas because I genuinely loved it, a lot more than the first movie might I add. However, since I work at the cinemas, I can say that for the entirety of it’s run, ‘Downton Abbey: A New Era’ didn’t really attract anywhere near the same amount of attention the first movie did and maybe just maybe, it’s time for this franchise to end, even if I personally don’t want it to.
major spoilers for ‘Downton Abbey: A New Era’ are featured in this review.
Seeing as how I’ve been with these characters for a much shorter time than the rest of the fans, it’s safe to say that I can honestly see this franchise going on forever. I love these characters and this world and I can honestly say that I would be more than happy to catch up with them every couple of years. However, when it comes to older fans, I can see why they would think it’s time for the Crawleys to say goodbye, especially after this latest instalment. I personally think that ‘A New Era’ is definitely worthy of being the finale to this franchise, it has a sense of finality and closure that the actual episodic finale and the first movie lacked severely. Obviously though, as expected, this movie wasn’t advertised as a finale and they left just enough room open for another instalment in the future, maybe one that doesn’t require a movie but something nonetheless. That being said, as both a standalone Downton story and a continuation of the franchise, ‘A New Era’ proves to be a near-perfect concoction of ‘Downton Abbey’s greatest strengths. Even when you think there’s nothing left to do with these characters, they find an inventive way of creating new scenarios and crafting exciting future plans as the modern ways breaks through the door of tradition, which is at the end of the day what ‘Downton Abbey’ is all about.
In the case of this fabulous sequel, director Simon Curtis fully understands the tone of the show and in doing so enables the characters to fully be themselves, something Michael Engler seemed to struggle with in the first movie. When it comes to the script and screenplay, ‘A New Era’ genuinely feels like a super-sized episode. While the series was mainly considered a drama, the fans know all too well how it can create the biggest drama out of the smallest situations, just look at any scene Robert Crawley or Mr Carson are in. All this to say that the show is dramatic to a comedic extent at times but that’s why we love it. ‘A New Era’ embraces this and takes these characters to uncharted territory; the movie business and the South of France. The cherry on top of this oh-so-Downton story is the mystery of Lady Violet Crawley’s past and her one-week affair with a French man who after all these years leaves one of his villas to her name as part of his will. Talk about a juicy story! It’s honestly the most Downton Abbey, this franchise has been in a while and I don’t know how else to describe it. To an outsider, this movie consists of our characters walking past gorgeous backdrops talking about the silliest and most privileged of problems yet it’s so entertaining to watch.
Considering this franchise is definitely nearing its end, it felt very rewarding seeing ‘A New Era’ give us moments we never thought we would get. On it’s own without any of the third act surprises, ‘A New Era’ would be considered a fun but unnecessary sequel but I’m glad to say that this movie carries quite the value. The two plots occuring are both fun to watch but I would be lying if I didn’t say I heavily preferred one over the other. The France plot, while fun in the moment, it doesn’t have a strong enough weight to keep going for two hours and it pulls the old-fashioned health scare with Cora of all people, which is funny considering this same exact plot happened in the actual finale from the show, this doctor is a miracle-worker! The Kinema coming to Downton plot is extremely more interesting in my eyes. I love it when a movie features the making of another movie as part of the plot and here it was done incredibly well! The endearing nostalgia or as Downton sees it, modern change really makes for some great moments. I never knew I needed Lady Mary to become an actress but here we are! The flirtatious nature she and director Jack Barber (Hugh Dancy) share in this two hour movie is enough to overpower the dull sparks her and Henry Talbot had in multiple episodes. At first, I thought I didn’t like Henry because Matthew was virtually superior in every single way but after seeing this movie, I think it’s because I just don’t like Henry, he doesn’t even make an appearance here!
The greatest outcome of this Hollywood situation is how the servants reacted to it. I loved every second of seeing Mr Molesley helping out the crew and eventually writing the script. They gave him the best scene of the movie last time and they do it again here, multiple times in fact! It’s fitting when you think about it. Anna and Daisy’s dynamic with Hollywood star Myrna Dalgleish (Laura Haddock) didn’t really seem like it was going anywhere until Daisy has a fantastic scene near the end where she tells Dalgleish how it is and to dust herself off and get back to work. It was amazing seeing Daisy take control like that, good for her! I also have to say that seeing the servants have dinner upstairs as extras on the movie set, all dolled up was incredible, I loved it so, so much, it felt like they were getting the thanks they so richly deserved. Speaking of getting what you deserve, it felt particularly rewarding seeing Mr Barrow finally get a happy ending with another man, a movie star at that! They didn’t sugarcoat it, in fact every character reminded him just cruel the world can be but it was done in a way that was believable and I for one, genuinely appreciated that, it was a very modern thing for Downton to do!
Of course, the one moment every fan is going to walk away with after this movie is the death of the Dowager Countess. After being teased in the first movie and wished upon countless times by Maggie Smith herself, Lady Violet Crawley is sadly no longer with us. I usually overthink a show’s decision to kill of a character but considering how long this has been expected, I accepted it immediately. It added more weight to the movie and it wrapped the story up in a quite the cohesive way where it truly marks a new era. The movie starts with a wedding and ends with a new soul entering the family, it’s all about change and new beginning so I think it was the perfect time to say goodbye to Violet even if it was incredibly sad.
Overall, ‘Downton Abbey: A New Era’ was just as wholesome, endearing and charming as expected. While it can definitely serve as a fitting finale, I could honestly see the franchise going on for a bit longer and I truly wouldn’t mind, even if it’s a holiday special every couple of years. I have truly enjoyed my time with these characters and this one wasn’t any different, I can honestly see myself rewatching this again and having a ‘Downton Abbey‘ inspired afternoon with tea and biscuits and call it a me day. All in all, ‘A New Era’ is definitely approved by this Downton fan!
‘Downton Abbey: A New Era’ is still showing in select theatres.