This review is going to write itself and I am going to save you the time and grief of reading. If you don’t know who the Earl of Grantham is, if you aren’t intrigued by servants Mr and Mrs Bates’ arduous journey of love, if you aren’t familiar by Lady Violet’s scintillating quips, your money is probably better spent elsewhere. Downton Abbey, the movie, is pure fan service, resoundingly rewarding fans of the TV series that ran for 6 years, from 2010 to 2015. It doesn’t even attempt to ease the unsuspecting cinema-goer who knows nothing about the TV series into the movie.

I was an ardent fan of the series. Every time a new season opens, my life would revolve around it. The upstairs (the high society) and the downstairs (the servants) narrative structure, the English stiff upper lip, the rigid posture, the back stabbings with a smile, the tender love stories, the witty sarcasm, all presented in resplendent Queen’s English is a joy to behold. What I never counted on were all the life lessons about duty, honour, ethics, kindness, honesty, love and marriage. It practically laid out a blueprint of how we should live our lives and that we are all capable of so much more.

The year is 1927, 18 months after the final Christmas episode which happened in 1925. We meet all our old friends once again and one and a half years breezed by in a wink of an eye. Robert Crawley is informed that King George V and Queen Mary will be staying at Downton Abbey for a night. The grand news sends our old friends, both upstairs and downstairs, into an excited frenzy. With the King and Queen’s eminent arrival, an old family saga unfolds with regards to Lady Violet’s estranged cousin, who is the Queen’s lady-in-waiting.

The movie opens with the stylings of a grand piano and before long the familiar music score will put a smile on your face. All the proceedings are played out in a super-sized TV episode, but you do know you are watching a movie because of all the gorgeous aerial shots and glorious golden hour lighting. It looks good enough to eat, with vivid colours, compositions, art direction, ravishing period costumes and cinematography. But the stylistics serve the content sublimely, and the continuity is lushly preserved. Julian Fellowes’ sharply written dialogue whizzes through the air and as usual Maggie Smith’s Lady Violet and Isobel Merton threaten to take over the movie with their scintillating lines.

Violet Crawley: Machiavelli is frequently underrated. He had so many qualities.

Isobel Merton: So did Caligula – not all of them charming.

This being a huge ensemble movie, writer Julian Fellowes and Director Michael Engler, try to give each character scenes to stand out, but some scenes do feel shoehorned in to give some characters a worthy arc. That said, my favourite characters Mr and Mrs Bates do get short shrift, especially Mr Bates.

Downton Abbey cruises along on the goodwill generated by the excellent TV series. If you are a fan, I will bet my bottom dollar you are going to enjoy it. If you aren’t, you will be wise to spend your money on another movie and won’t be poorer for it. For my wife and I, it felt like a great catch-up with old friends.

Rating: 3.5 / 5

Written by Daniel Chiam.




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