Universal Pictures  |  June 10, 2022  |  146 Mins.  | Action, Sci-Fi, Adventure

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DOWNTON ABBEY: A NEW ERA (2022)  l  Focus Features / Universal Pictures Canada  |  Release Date: May 20, 2022  |  124 Mins.

Follow-up to the 2019 feature film in which the Crawley family and Downton staff received a royal visit from the King and Queen of Great Britain.

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REVIEW BY: Darren Zakus

"Downton Abbey: A New Era" sees the fan favorite television series return to the big screen for another heartfelt and absolutely delightful experience, that is destined to be one of the hits of the summer thanks to two stellar performances from Maggie Smith and Michelle Dockery. 

 

It’s crazy to think that I slept on this franchise until this week, but after seeing both Downton Abbey films, I can see why this television series has successfully made the jump to the big screen… not once but twice. With the majority of the cast returning for the second big screen outing, the film welcomes audiences back to Downton as the writers wrap up existing storylines while setting the stage as the series enters a new decade. 

 

While the first film was set entirely at Downton, the sequel has two storylines occurring in two separate locations. The first story sees Lady Mary taking over the role of running Downton while a film crew uses it as a location for their next film. While this is happening, Lady Violet has inherited a villa in the south of France from a man she spent a week with in the 1860s and Robert, Cora and other members of the Crawley family take a trip to help settle a conflict that has resulted from the villa passing to Lady Violet and not the late man’s wife. Compared to the first film, the two stories occurring work better. The two stories are more engaging and interesting, providing better moments for all of the characters versus the first film that spent too much time focusing on the support staff fighting with the support staff of the Royal Family. I personally loved the plot line with the film crew at Downton, which did a great job touching on the transition from silent films to talking films, while also providing a much improved role for Lady Mary compared to the first film where she was not given a lot to do. While the two stories feel disjointed in the film’s second act as you have the concurrent storylines playing out in England and France which both could have filled their own short film, everything ties together nicely in the final act. The final act itself is wonderful, it’s a beautiful ending for the stories at play in this film that if there is no third film made, will serve as the perfect ending for the franchise. There was not a dry eye in my theatre at my screening last night, delivering the satisfying emotional conclusion for the fans, while also opening up the door for a new era of stories to unfold at Downton. 

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As with the first film, the film is visually dazzling. The production design is truly outstanding, fully creating the late 1920s in both England and France. Detailed sets bring to life both settings in the film. Sweeping shots provide the grand feeling that fans expect from the series, delivering some truly magnificent shots of Downton Abbey itself. The costumes are stunning, capturing both the traditional English styles and the exciting roaring twenties style of the French Riviera impeccably. John Lunn returns to score the film, bringing back that instantly recognizable Downton Abbey theme that is truly a wonderful composition. But unlike the first film which relied heavily on the theme, Lunn plays with different styles to capture the events of the film. The sounds of the French Riviera are grand and infused with jazz, while the music at Downton Abbey itself is reminiscent of the sounds of old Hollywood in the 1920s and 30s. 

 

Though it is the performances that make the film. Once again, Maggie Smith is an absolute delight as Lady Violet. The way that Smith throws shade with her scene stealing one liners is truly unmatched and delivers some of the best moments of the entire film. It’s a completely immersive performance that Smith revels in, providing the grand conclusion that her character deserved that will cement her portrayal of the character as one of the most enjoyable characters on television in the past decade. The other standout is Michelle Dockery as Lady Mary. Dockery has been making splashes throughout Hollywood since being cast in Downton Abbey years ago, and seeing her return to the character is nothing more than splendid. Unlike the first film which left Lady Mary on the sidelines, she is front and centre in this film as the new lady in charge of Downton. She brings a great warmth and intelligence to the role, sends sparks flying with her main co-star Hugh Dancy, and even echoes the shade of Smith’s Lady Violet to great success. The rest of the cast is wonderful, each giving great performances, with the standout supporting performances belonging to Elizabeth McGovern, Sophie McShera, Hugh Dancy and Dominic West. 

 

While I can’t compare this film to the television series, I’m happy to report that overall I found this film better than the first film, and hopefully fans of the series will feel the same way. And I would be very excited for another film to be announced, as I just loved spending time with these characters and would like to explore them as they enter the next decade. Acting as both a conclusion to one era and ushering in a new era of storytelling for the fan favourite series, full of moments that will have fans cheering throughout the film, Downton Abbey: The New Era is the perfect summer film that is a love letter to one of the most popular television series of the past decade. 

RATING: 8/10

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