Disclosure: I received a free copy of the Blu-Ray of Downton Abbey: A New Era from Beck Media. All opinions in the film review are my own.
Downtown Abbey: A New Era is the second Downton Abbey movie and surprisingly superior to the first movie (which was also excellent!). If you loved the series, you’ll likely love this new film as it has all the qualities of a memorable – and extended – Downton episode.
It’s full of dry wit, old Hollywood magic, a touch of mystery, lots of romance, some goodbyes, and emotional moments, and ultimately feels like the period drama we all know and love.
Watching A New Era feels like visiting old friends in the best of ways. And that refreshing nostalgic feeling mixed with an entertaining but fresh story makes its return worth it.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Downton Abbey: A New Era begins in 1928, months after the first film, with a wedding between Lucy and Branson. From there, the story splits into two parallel stories joining into one by the end:
- Lady Violet mysteriously inherits a villa in the South of France and plans to leave this inheritance to her granddaughter Sybbie. Half the cast heads over to the French Riviera to check out the villa and investigate the mystery of Lady Violet’s past, including Robert Grantham (Hugh Bonneville), Lady Cora Grantham (Elizabeth McGovern), Tom Branson (Allen Leech), Lucy Branson (Tuppence Middleton), Lady Edith (Laura Carmichael), and Bertie (Harry Hadden-Paton), Maud Bagshaw (Imelda Staunton), Mr. Bates (Brendan Coyle), and Mr. Carson (Jim Carter).
- The other half of the cast stays behind as a Hollywood Film Company comes to Downton Abbey to make a silent movie! It’s all inspiring, romantic, and glamorous. Remaining behind is Lady Violet (Dame Maggie Smith), Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery), Isobel Merton (Penelope Wilton), Butler Thomas Barrow (Robert James-Collier), Mrs. Hughes (Phyllis Logan), Anna Bates (Joanne Froggatt), Mrs. Patmore (Lesley Nicol), Daisy Parker (Sophie McShera), Andy Parker (Michael Fox), Mr. Molesley (Kevin Doyle), Miss Baxter (Raquel Cassidy), and Miss Denker (Sue Johnston).
Without giving away spoilers, the movie brilliantly tells two intriguing stories that thematically come back around to pay tribute to Lady Violet (aka the always fabulous Maggie Smith) and her life while simultaneously showing love for every character that has walked the walls of Downton.
The movie introduces a few new characters as well, including Hugh Dancy as the handsome director, Jack Barber; Dominic West as the dashing Hollywood star, Guy Dexter; Laura Haddock as Myrna Dalgleish – the glamorous starlet;
Then there is the Marquis de Montmirail (Jonathan Zaccaï) and Mme de Montmirail in France, the previous owners of the villa.
The new characters fit well with the old favorites – bringing critical new voices to the continuing story.
Downton Abbey: A New Era is just the comforting entertainment we all need right now. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, your heart will skip a beat, and so much more.
Ultimately, this beloved period drama is brilliant escapism and continues to delight audiences because it captures universal truths while taking place in a different but fascinating time.
The story captivates from start to finish, the characters are memorable, the performances excellent, and the writing brilliant. Not to mention, the gorgeous costumes and emotional music composition add to the overall depth and enjoyment.
Downton also does well because, unlike many other shows and sequels, it stays true to what it always was. It continues to succeed because it doesn’t try to rock the boat.
While each new season and film attempts a fresh storyline that captures a unique time in history, it never tries to drastically change characters’ personalities or break up happy couples simply to create unnecessary conflict.
Instead, the television series creator Julian Fellowes focuses on giving the audience a fantastic story that is well-plotted with all the bells and whistles period drama fans want.
But it never stays stagnant either – arguably because time moves forward in the Downton world just as it does in our own.
Basically, if Mr. Molesley could write a Downton Abbey movie we’d all love, it’d look just like this one.
If you’re wondering if the Blu-Ray with all the special features (plus the movie in HD) is worth buying, I can tell you the bonus features are as charming and fun to watch as the movie itself.
The DVD/Blu-Ray contains seven exclusive bonus features, including original commentary from Director Simon Curtis (it has lots of enjoyable tidbits and is great to watch if you love the art of filmmaking and how it works).
Other features include:
- Good To Be Back – The cast reunites and discusses their new characters’ arcs.
- Return to DOWNTON ABBEY: The Making of A NEW ERA – An in-depth look at the making of the new movie.
- A Legendary Character – This is a short but lovely bonus feature of the Dowager Countess of Grantham and Maggie Smith’s iconic performance.
- Creating The Film Within The Film – Find out more about the research that went into the movie – including the historical details.
- Her Majesty’s Yacht Britannia – Find out more about the Royal Yacht and how the filmmakers used it in the movie!
- Spill The Tea (Time) – Allen Leech (Tom Branson) and Laura Carmichael (Lady Edith) answer questions!
The movie looks brilliant on the television screen with the highest quality. So, if you loved the movie, are a Downton Abbey fan, or want to see it in HD on your TV, the Blu-Ray is worth checking out and adding to your personal collection.
Want a chance to win a copy? Enter our giveaway before July 13, 2022. Two winners will be randomly chosen.
Overall, Downton Abbey: A New Era is everything I love in a good movie. You feel good watching it and leave the theater (or the comfort of your couch) with a smile, absolutely satisfied.
Sure, it doesn’t have the excitement of Maverick (also brilliant) or the CGI of Jurassic World: Dominion, but it has something many movies forget today: the power of good, old-fashioned storytelling.
Not only does A New Era pay tribute to early Hollywood talkies, but it follows a similar structure as those Old Hollywood movies – concentrating on a well-formulated story and clever, witty dialogue rather than on CGI and visual effects.
So, if wit and happy endings are your jams, Downton Abbey: A New Era is the movie for you.
While A New Era has an air of finality, the movie also leaves the door open for more stories in the future.
Perhaps Downton will return as the story transitions into the 1930s. Or perhaps Julian Fellowes will explore other characters and places within the same world like The Gilded Age.
Maybe we’ll even meet new characters as the story skips a couple of generations.
Whatever the case, if the stories continue to delight, there is no reason there won’t be more Downton in the future.
Content Note: PG
Where to Watch: Stream on Peacock Premium, buy on Digital, DVD, or Blu-Ray (released on July 5, 2022). Check out our detailed guide for where to watch the rest of Downton Abbey.
What did you think of Downton Abbey: A New Era? Do you agree with our review? Let us know in the comments!
Featured image: (l-r.) Harry Hadden-Paton stars as Bertie Pelham, Laura Carmichael as Lady Edith, Tuppence Middleton as Lucy Smith and Allen Leech as Tom Branson in DOWNTON ABBEY: A New Era, a Focus Features release. Credit: Ben Blackall / © 2022 Focus Features, LLC