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Review: Downton Abbey is the Period Drama Movie of the Year

Downton Abbey is back!

Downton Abbey may have ignited a new age in cinema, proving going to the movies can still be a magical experience. The Downton Abbey movie (written by creator Julian Fellowes) is glamourous, nostalgic, funny, romantic, witty, heartbreaking, and entertaining. It’s everything you expect to see in an excellent period flick. Will it make complete sense if you haven’t seen the TV show? Maybe not. But it’s not hard to follow and even entertained Downton newbies in the audience. But what made the film ultimately so special was the experience itself.

While movie night used to be something to get dressed up for, the magic of the movies has dwindled in recent years. Now, it’s more fun to watch a movie in the comfort of your home than spend fifteen dollars on seeing another remake.

Downton Abbey movie poster

But the recent release of the Downton Abbey movie demonstrates that Hollywood still has a little bit of magic left if producers don’t “obliviate” into mindless filmmaking hacks. Perhaps the movie industry can take note of Downton’s success and find a way to mirror it.

By giving people quality content and by making movies “feel” like an event again, “movie magic” (not to be misconstrued with fantasy magic or the accumulation of ticket sales) could make a comeback.

What the Downton Abbey movie did (and did well) was just that. Now, if you were lucky enough to see an early screening a week before its release, you were given a souvenir – a Highclere Castle snow globe. While it’s not anything fancy, it was fun receiving a gift. The chatter in the audience was excited and the energy palpable. Some people even showed up to these screenings in fancy clothes.

Seeing Downton Abbey in theaters is an event you don’t want to miss out on – if only to hear the communal laughter and enthusiasm of the people watching with you.

Based on these early screenings’ popularity, it’s no surprise that Downton Abbey then became the number one film a week later, even breaking a record! The advertising, word of mouth, the buzz, the glamour, the anticipation, this is the must-see period drama of the year. Plus, it’s stunning to see the majestic Highclere Castle (Downton Abbey) on the big screen.

The PlotDownton Abbey (2019)

Recap Video of the TV Show

The Downton Abbey movie continues a couple of years after the show ended, following the Crawley family and their servants in 1927. The plot centers around a royal family visit to Downton Abbey. Of course, chaos, excitement, and fun then ensue.

Don’t mistake this movie for mere frivolity, however. Underlying themes about life and time are powerful and poignant, shown most clearly through the stories with the Dowager Countess, Thomas, and Lady Mary. The structure of the screenplay is purposeful and may need more than one viewing to recognize its brilliance.

Lady Mary and the Dowager Countess in Downton Abbey movie

As the Dowager Countess, Maggie Smith captures the script’s nuances the most and gives a commanding performance. She’s so good she may have just earned herself an Oscar nomination. Just watch the emotional scene between her and Michelle Dockery (Lady Mary) near the end of the film.

The Zingers

Of course, it wouldn’t be Downton Abbey without the Dowager Countess and Isobel exchanging zingers better than any Avenger can spout off zippy one-liners. So, if you’re a fan of witticisms from these two ladies, you won’t be disappointed.

Besides that, the Downton Abbey film also has humor in spades. In a standout scene, Mr. Molesley embarrasses himself in front of the royal family, proving Kevin Doyle has comedic chops to spare. The scene is hilarious and left the audience in stitches. This man deserves more roles and more screen time!

The Romance

Romances of Downton Abbey movie

The romances were also lovely. Tom Branson finally has an authentic love interest besides Sybil (though it was hard not to notice the actor’s chemistry with the actress playing Princess Mary). In fact, Tom may have the most prominent role in the film – or at least the most screen time.

Thomas also gets some love. His story is done in such an emotional way; it’s better to watch it than tell you about it. The other love stories continue believably from the series hitting just the right notes and should leave romance fans satisfied.

Overall Thoughts

Nostalgia and buzz aside, Downton Abbey, while imperfect, is glorious. With a larger budget and cinematic scope, everything from the costumes to the cinematography was grander. The script remains true to the series while also feeling like a movie. Having won an Oscar for his screenplay for Gosford Park, Fellowes is no stranger to writing period dramas for the big screen. And it shows.

While a few may be disappointed their favorite Downton characters don’t get enough screen time (cough *Mr. Bates* cough), overall the film is a beautiful love letter to the fans while also attracting new ones. So, if you enjoy character-driven films with powerful scripts, top-notch acting talent, and wit over vulgarity, you’ll likely love it.

Downton Abbey is a must-see period drama, but it’s also a memorable cinematic experience and is what good entertainment is all about.

Have you seen the Downton Abbey movie yet? What are your thoughts on this continuation of the PBS Masterpiece series? Let me know in the comments.

Photos: Focus Features


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By on September 24th, 2019

About Amber Topping

Amber works as a writer and digital publisher full-time and fell in love with stories and imagination at an early age. She has a Humanities and Film Degree from BYU, co-created The Silver Petticoat Review, contributed as a writer to various magazines, and has an MS in Publishing from Pace University, where she received the Publishing Award of Excellence and wrote her thesis on transmedia, Jane Austen, and the romance genre. Her ultimate dreams are publishing books, writing and producing movies, traveling around the world, and forming a creative village of talented storytellers trying to change the world through art.

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