Sometimes a TV show comes along which absolutely captivates an audience enough to justify a continuation movie. In nerd culture, we’re more than familiar with this… I for one am still recovering from Serenity. This week, Downton Abbey hit theaters, marking the end of the long-running ITV/PBS period drama. Is the movie worth checking out? Or sure are fans of the series better off just remembering the show as it was? Well, read on…
Downton Abbey follows the Crawley family and their staff as the family receives a pleasant, but unexpected surprise. The King and Queen are coming to Downton! A royal visit is enough to turn the massive manor upside down. In the years since WWI, the old life has been a struggle for the family, and as people grow old and move on, things seem ever in transition. The movie is the much anticipated cinematic follow-up to the long running television series. The old audience favorites return in the roles they made famous. Julian Fellowes writes the script which is directed by Michael Engler.
Anyone who follows me on social media will know I’m a Downton Abbey fan from way back. However, I struggled to bounce back from certain mid-series changes. As such, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Filmic continuations of popular TV series are a tricky business and while the intentions are good, will it translate?
Well, as Downton Abbey gets going I suddenly found myself transported back to when I first fell in love with the series. The music, the characters, the sprawling English estate which has no business being so beautiful… it is all there. While there is a definite awareness that this is the end, there’s a sense of lightness to the movie. All at once, things feel familiar with the Crawleys, making this a must see for the fans of the series.
The moments of fan-service run rampant throughout the film, but for this fan, it was an absolute joy. Particularly interesting is Robert James-Collier who revels in the opportunity for footman turned butler Thomas Barrow to really step out and distinguish himself. While the character stood in as a needed villain in the early seasons, as the show developed they turned Barrow into a powerful examination of homosexuality in the early years of the twentieth century. James-Collier takes his portrayal to a new level, personifying the struggles of the LGBTQ community during this period. Once an unlikable, mustache twirling villain, Barrow’s search for acceptance melts even the coldest cockles of the heart.
It’s difficult to not isolate performances as all of the actors absolutely kill it in the movie. Allen Leech, Maggie Smith and Laura Carmichael each somehow find new territory to take their characters to still new places. As the closing credits roll, while the sense of closure is undeniable, there’s still the sense that there’s more territory here to explore. The ending is eloquent, beautiful and fitting of the series.
Everything comes to an end, and it’s always a relief to see a large gamble pay off. Downton Abbey is a grand and opulent film and feels completely at home on the big screen. While the sense of closure brings a bittersweet lull to the narrative, the sense of love and joy behind the film makes this a must see for anyone who was ever a fan of the period series. Definitely add this one to your lists.
Downton Abbey is now playing in theaters around the country.