Review by Dan Skip Allen
Julian Fellowes has a knack for making English aristocrats and their servants compelling, dramatic, and interesting. Gosford Park was his first foray into this world. Later he created the smash hit show for PBS, Downton Abbey, which had six seasons of the Crawley family and their servants. That show spawned a film in 2019 based on the exploits of this same family. Fans couldn't get enough of this upper-class family and their downstairs employees because a new Downton Abbey film is coming to cinemas, and it's a new era for the Crawley family.
When we pick up the Crawley family in Downton Abbey: A New Era, they are struggling to transition into the 1930s. When a lawyer shows up with a reading of a will, he lets them know the Dowager (Maggie Smith) of the family has inherited a villa in the south of France. Almost simultaneously, a letter comes from British Lion, a film company, asking them if they could use Downton as the location for their new film. As you can imagine, these new flashes throw Downton into turmoil. Some are happier than others about all of this news, though.
Onboard for this installment of Downton Abbey is Simon Curtis. He's no stranger to serialized television shows, having worked on Cranford and David Copperfield. He also has directed his fair share of films, so he's the perfect director to tackle this upstairs-downstairs world that fellows have created. He does a great job directing the serious moments as well as the more comedic moments. This film has a balance of both that will make the viewers watching laugh and cry. His leadership direction of this world is impeccable, and it shows why he was chosen to direct this second installment in the franchise.
One of the great things about Downton Abbey is the characters. The arcs that they're in have to be compelling and engaging. And how this cast brings those stories to life is the key. Robert Crawley, The Earl of Grantham (Hugh Bonneville), may have uncovered a secret about his family. Lady Mary Crawley (Michelle Dockery) stays back home working with the film crew and may have found a hidden talent she didn't know she had. The now-retired head butler, Charles Carson (Jim Carter), may be worried he's a man of the past as the Crawley family moves into the future. There are a few other subplots in this film, but I could talk about this incredible cast all day. As per usual, they are all fantastic in this sequel film.
The title of this film is pretty prophetic because this film really does create a new era for this family. Like the series and film before this, the new film tackles subjects that can only make life more stressful and demanding. The upstairs-downstairs world that this family and their servants inhabit has moved forward. They have become a part of a world outside them that they only knew a bit of, but they have now fully embraced. Technology has played a huge part in that as well as getting away from the home they love so much. Downton Abbey: A New Era is the most logical place the film and franchise could go. If it's the end of the franchise, it has ended perfectly. I couldn't have imagined a better conclusion to this amazing, intriguing, dramatic world Julian Fellowes has created.
Downton Abbey: A New Era hits theaters on May 20.