Movie review: New 'Downton Abbey' has a little something for everybody

Fred Hawson

Posted at May 21 2022 08:00 AM

Maggie Smith (right) returns in 'Downton Abbey: A New Era'
Maggie Smith (right) returns in 'Downton Abbey: A New Era'

In 1928, Lady Violet (Maggie Smith) had inherited a villa in Southern France from the late Marquis de Montmirail, whom she met 60 years ago. Sir Robert Crawley (Hugh Bonneville) and Cora (Elizabeth McGovern), Edith (Laura Carmichael) and Bertie Pelham (Harry Hadden-Paton), Tom Branson (Allen Leech), his new bride Lucy (Tuppence Middleton) and mother-in-law Lady Bagshaw (Imelda Staunton) visited it upon the invitation of Montmirai's son. 

Meanwhile, Downton had been leased out by Lady Mary Talbot (Michelle Dockery) as the shooting location for a silent film directed by Jack Barber (Hugh Dancy), starrring famous movie stars Myrna Dagliesh (Laura Haddock) and Guy Dexter (Dominic West). However, the shoot stalled when their sponsor pulled out midway because silents were falling out of favor. Barber then decided to shift to becoming a talking film instead, but it was not that easy.

Fans of the "Downton Abbey" TV series will undoubtedly be thrilled to attend this reunion and get updated with what was going on with the masters and servants they have learned to love over the show's 6 seasons, which ran from 2010-15, spanning the changing years from 1912 to 1925. In 2019, the first cinematic reunion was held, telling about events surrounding a visit of King George V and Queen Mary to Downton in 1927.

This new film got the beloved cast together once again, only to split them into two parallel stories. One story was happening in Downton with Lady Mary and staff excitedly witnessing the transition of movies from silents to talkies. The other one in another opulent villa in the French Riviera, with Sir Robert and family learning about yet another passionate romance in the past of the formidable but delightful Lady Violet, Dowager Countess of Grantham. 

Of course, with the cast in full attendance we cannot really expect every character to have equal screen exposure. While it was fulfilling to see good things happen to Mr. Molesley (Kevin Doyle), it was a tad disappointing that there wasn't much for John and Anna Bates here, or for Lady Merton Isobel Grey. 

Series creator and screenwriter Julian Fellowes did try to squeeze in a little something for everyone, and wrap things up with a bittersweet bow.

This review was originally published in the author's blog, "Fred Said."