Yes, judge me if you will. Despite detailing my disappointment with how the series developed, I went ahead and watched the movie anyway. But look at it this way: now you can decide whether or not you want to see it based on my spoiler-free review 🙂
So with that non-apology out of the way, what did I think of the Downton Abbey movie?
Overall, it was better than I expected – although my expectations were not terribly high. Apart from the impressive cinematography, the film didn’t differ much in plot or feel from your average season finale episode. It was the old Downton crew back again, this time in expectation of a visit from their Majesties, the King and Queen of England.
(I wasn’t sure which English monarchs these were, but turns out this is King George V and his wife Queen Mary, parents of Edward and Albert, whose story was portrayed in The King’s Speech. The Princess Mary featured in Downton Abbey is the brothers’ younger sister.)
It was quite fun to see how the Downton staff dealt with the intrusion of the royal staff, and apart from Daisy, who irritates in every scene with her newfound anti-monarchical republicanism, everyone is great fun to watch. Maggie Smith still gets all the best lines, although Penelope Wilton (Cousin Isobel) gives her a run for her money from time to time. I’ll break down what I can while avoiding spoilers.
- It’s a good, rollicking Downton romp, so if you’re after those feels, you’ll get them
- As mentioned, the cinematography is gorgeous, with new angles and shots of the abbey, as well as sumptuous English decor exhibited in a host of different manors, mansions and monuments
- The plot is, for the most part, plausible, enjoyable and satisfying
- It ties up a lot of loose ends left at the end of season six
- The new characters are well-cast and likeable (except for the royal staff, who are almost all delightfully horrid)
- For the most part it doesn’t push too hard on the social justice angle. In fact, I found it refreshingly pro-British and pro-monarchical, an interesting take in light of the controversies currently surrounding Brexit (with Daisy’s dissent clearly thrown in to add some ‘balance’)
- Daisy’s character and lines are annoying and silly
- If you’re a fan of Mary’s new husband Henry Talbot (played by the dashing Matthew Goode), don’t hold your breath. He only appears briefly in the film
- Fan-favourites Anna and Bates don’t get as big roles in this film as some would like
- My biggest beef with the film – which will undoubtedly be that of every Christian who goes to see it – is the focus on Thomas’s homosexuality. Without going into too much detail, there are at least two (brief) male kisses, men dancing with each other in an early 20th-century version of an underground gay bar and a police officer referring to the men as “perverts”. Thomas doesn’t find a boyfriend exactly, but does make a new friend who is also gay. There are one or two cringe-inducing lines about whether the world will ever see it “their way” – but to be fair to the writers, overall it’s not as ham-fisted as it could have been. Having said that, none of this has much, if any, impact on the main plot and this whole subplot could have been dispensed with entirely. To me, this makes its inclusion more agenda-driven than plot-driven, but I was expecting the whole film to be a lot worse, in all honesty.
Overall, the movie is more objective than subjective in how it depicts everything, and I think it’s generally better than seasons four or five of the show. It’s enjoyable and, apart from the gay stuff, sticks to telling the story over scoring political points. It’s also emotionally affecting and made me cry at one point. It’s enjoyable, but about as memorable as any other episode of the television series.
I’d give it a 6.5/10.
Image caption: Lady Mary and husband Henry Talbot. Copyright: ITV Studios