Fans will love the new big-screen Downton Abbey. The movie picks up where the last series left off.
Although that series tied up most loose ends, it left a couple of unresolved romances which the movie chooses not to dwell on at length.
Instead, it focuses on the visit to Downton Abbey of King George V (Simon Jones) and Queen Mary (Geraldine James).
There’s a small subplot concerning the budding romance of Daisy (Sophie McShera) and Andy (Michael C Fox) and we are left in no doubt Molesley (Kevin Doyle) and Baxter (Raquel Cassidy) will end up together.
Kevin Doyle as Molesley provides one of the highlights of the movie with a surprising turn from the normally unsurprising schoolteacher-cum-footman.
Maggie Smith as the Dowager Countess of Grantham is, of course, the star, and writer Julian Fellowes has Oscar Wilded his heart out to make the Dowager the Lady Bracknell of our day.
The Downton devotees in the preview audience applauded and cheered Dame Maggie’s acid-tongued bon mots with all the fervour of fans at a prizefight acclaiming a well-landed punch.
Penelope Wilton as Baroness Merton shines as the Countess’s sparring partner.
The remaining regular cast is much as we would expect. Mary (Michelle Dockery) is always at her best in a fight and she’s got no real battle to charge into in this movie.
With her and Edith (Laura Carmichael) now resigned to each other, there are no sparks flying there.
Robert (Hugh Bonneville), Cora (Elizabeth McGovern), Bertie (Harry Hadden-Paton), Anna (Joanne Froggatt), Bates (Brendan Coyle), Mrs Carson (Phyllis Logan), Mrs Patmore (Lesley Nicol), and Mr Carson (Jim Carter) all play their parts to perfection but with no real surprises.
However, Tom (Allan Leech) and Barrow (Rob James-Collier) come to the fore in major subplots.
Butler Thomas Barrow suffered much for his sexuality throughout the television series. However, the movie offers him some light at the end of the tunnel.
We see his joy and wonder as he is introduced to a premise full of others like him.
And, being Downton, even Thomas gets the promise of a future romance.
The Royal Visit
The plot focuses on the visit of the King and Queen to Downton Abbey.
George V and Mary of Teck were a famously aloof couple. Photographs show a stern pair of authoritarians and various biographies confirm that impression.
Despite that, the movie’s George and Mary are charming and personable, even benevolent, royals.
In fact, one subplot even seeks to whitewash the Queen’s well-known penchant for acquiring items she admired during visits to the country estates of England’s nobility.
Perhaps a frosty and imperious Queen Mary may have been too similar a character to the Dowager Countess of Grantham.
However, if King George and Queen Mary are more human figures than in real life, their staff more than compensate.
Their regal and overbearing attitude provokes mutiny among the normally loyal ‘God and country’ Downton household staff.
So, while Irish Republican sympathiser Tom saves the king’s life, the Downton staff plot insurrection against the royal retainers.
Rest assured, our friends below stairs at Downton prevail.
Downton Abbey is in cinemas from Thursday, September 12. You can stream all six seasons of the TV series on Amazon Prime Video.
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