Downton Abbey Review: An Elegant Return To The Castle

When I sat down in the theater to see the Downton Abbey movie, I wondered if the magic of the show could be recreated. Sometimes reboots don’t work. Yet, the first sweeping shots of the Downton Abbey castle accompanied by the iconic orchestral theme on the theater screen were instant magic. It was as if no time had passed since the series finale and I had to know what all of my favorite characters were doing.

It’s been 4 years since Downton Abbey ended its series run on TV. It was a show that detailed the differences between the life of the elite upstairs world and the working class downstairs servants. Yet, you somehow felt a connection to both worlds because of the fantastic storytelling. Each episode was full of gorgeous sets, detailed character development, and one special castle.

In Downton Abbey, the Crawley family is expecting a visit from the King and Queen of England. This provides a shake up at Downton as the staff must get ready for the most regal visit they’ve ever encountered at the manor. Will it all go according to plan? Can Mrs. Pattmore make enough food? Will Carson return as butler? You just have to see the movie to find out.

I won’t give away plot details, but I can say that director Michael Engler does well balancing several storylines in Downton Abbey and bringing them all together. I’d say it’s important to be a fan of the show to follow along with the film. It assumes you understand the character dynamics and plot details. So if you haven’t caught up yet, now’s the time to binge it on Amazon Prime! The series always bounced around from one plotline to another in each episode. The movie does the same thing, but they all fit together under the plot line of the King and Queen’s visit. There is the downstairs struggle of frantically preparing everything for the royal visit (chaos ensues, naturally). Then there is the upstairs struggle of keeping the estate going.
Writer Julian Fellowes makes sure that the audience remains intrigued throughout the film. No moment drags and all of the beloved characters are brought back for the big screen debut. (Except for Lady Rose! I missed seeing Lily James reunited with the Downton crew.)

As a huge fan of the show, I thoroughly enjoyed seeing each character get a special moment to shine in the movie. There are certain character relationships that are so great to see in the movie like the friendship between Mary and Anna, Carson and Mrs. Hughes, and Daisy and Ms. Pattmore. It’s the little moments at Downton Abbey that stand out. Every character gets their moment, but I’ll give you a quick ranking of who are the most highlighted characters

  1. Mary
    We all know Mary (Michelle Dockery) is a boss. Downton began with Mary being DENIED the ability to inherit Downton even though we all know she was the true heir. (The 20th century was a complicated time and women couldn’t get any respect.) She also had the tendency to be a little catty towards Edith. Those days are over, so wave goodbye! Mary has come full circle. She and Edith are getting along! She is organizing events for Downton. Don’t try and stop her because this is a whole new, mature Mary.

  2. Tom Branson
    Tom deserves happiness. Ever since the death of Sybil, (may she rest in peace. No one will ever be over season 3) things have been tough for Tom. He gave up his life in Ireland to stay at Downton and raise his daughter with the Crawleys. That was a very mature thing to do. He gets such a great storyline in the film and continues to show that he’s such a loyal and upstanding character. Allen Leech plays the character with such charm and ease. You go, Tom Branson.

  3. Anna
    Anna is the best. We all know this from watching Downton Abbey. She is the most loyal and kindhearted person who happens to have the worst luck in the world. Thankfully, she doesn’t suffer at all in this movie! She and Bates see no time at a court house and don’t go to jail for the whole two hours. Can you say miracle? Thank you Julian Fellowes, for having mercy on the innocent. For the movie, Anna shows a strong sense of leadership when morale is low among the servants. Joanna Froggat portrays Anna perfectly.

  4. The Dowager Countess
    What is Downton Abbey without the Dowager Countess? It’s not a show! Maggie Smith’s portrayal is full of wit and charisma in every scene. The film adaption makes sure she has plenty to do, keeping the fans entertained. She has a trove of one liners ready to go at a seconds notice. Violet has more to do than just fire witty comebacks though, the film presents an intriguing storyline about her relationship with a cousin.

  5. Carson/Mrs Hughes
    In the 4 years since the show ended, Carson (Jim Carter) was off living that retirement life. He got married to Mrs Hughes (Phyllis Logan), settled down, and planted a garden. #Retirementgoals, am I right? When the details of the royal visit become known, Mary believes he will do a much better job organizing things than Barrow. So she asks for his help. Just like that, Carson is back, carpooling with Mrs Hughes to work. (Actually, they’re walking because I doubt they have a car.) Goodbye to that retirement life. While Carson seems to have a grumpy exterior, all fans know how much he loves Downton. It wouldn’t have been a movie without him in attendance at the royal visit.
    As for Mrs. Hughes, she is still in charge of the housekeepers at Downton. Don’t try to cross her because she will come out victorious in her efforts. Her relationship with Carson is so sweet. I’m happy for them. Hopefully after the royal visit, he can go back to his retirement life.

I could spend plenty of time writing about other characters because the film is a wonderful collage of moments letting everyone have a storyline. Yet, I will say Daisy and Andy’s plot is a bit disappointing. She spends most of the film pouting that the royals are coming to visit while he is jealous of her flirting with a local handyman. It’s not the most thrilling storyline and it made me wonder how they ever became a couple.

The characters may give us the drama, intrigue, and comedy, but what would Downton be without the set and costume design? If you thought it was incredible on the show, wait until you see it on the big screen! The details of every set are exquisite. This is truly a spectacle film that should be seen on the big screen to admire the beauty of the grand sets. There are numerous costume changes that will impress all Downton fans. Mary’s final dress and Edith’s blue sequined Star dress were my personal favorites, but I’ll have to see it again to catch more details.

Downton Abbey marks a grand return to one of television’s most elegant shows. Fans, don’t miss out on this cinematic event.
My Rating: 8/10

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