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Downton Abbey: A New Era is a cliché-ridden sumptuous feast of totally enjoyable nonsense



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Highclere Castle once again takes centre stage as the second feature-length version of an episode in the life of the Granthams comes to the big screen.

As a piece of escapism the Julian Fellowes juggernaut cannot be beaten – beautiful people wafting around beautiful scenery and gazing wistfully into the distance – what's not to love?

Finally on release this week, the film has been met with mixed reviews – but no matter, it is exactly what it says on the movie equivalent of the Christmas tin of Quality Street.

(l-r.) Samantha Bond stars as Lady Rosamund, Douglas Reith as Lord Merton, Harry Hadden-Paton as Lord Hexham, Laura Carmichael as Lady Edith Hexham, Hugh Bonneville as Lord Grantham, Elizabeth McGovern as Lady Grantham, Michelle Dockery as Lady Mary Talbot, Penelope Wilton as Lady Merton, Robert James Collier as Thomas Barrow and Michael Fox as Andy in DOWNTON ABBEY: A New Era, a Focus Features release. Credit: Ben Blackall / © 2021 Focus Features, LLC (56442296)
(l-r.) Samantha Bond stars as Lady Rosamund, Douglas Reith as Lord Merton, Harry Hadden-Paton as Lord Hexham, Laura Carmichael as Lady Edith Hexham, Hugh Bonneville as Lord Grantham, Elizabeth McGovern as Lady Grantham, Michelle Dockery as Lady Mary Talbot, Penelope Wilton as Lady Merton, Robert James Collier as Thomas Barrow and Michael Fox as Andy in DOWNTON ABBEY: A New Era, a Focus Features release. Credit: Ben Blackall / © 2021 Focus Features, LLC (56442296)
Penelope Wilton stars as Isobel Merton and Maggie Smith as Violet Grantham in DOWNTON ABBEY: A New Era, a Focus Features release. Credit: Ben Blackall / © 2022 Focus Features, LLC (56442263)
Penelope Wilton stars as Isobel Merton and Maggie Smith as Violet Grantham in DOWNTON ABBEY: A New Era, a Focus Features release. Credit: Ben Blackall / © 2022 Focus Features, LLC (56442263)

All the familiar characters are back doing what they do so well, with the exception of Jack (Matthew Goode), Lady Mary's (Michelle Dockery) daredevil second husband who spends most of his life on the racing track.

But this allows for a mild flirtation with the dishy film director (Hugh Dancy) who brings the 20th century to Downton, in a very unsubtle lift from Singing in the Rain as the actors grapple with the change from silent movies to talkies.

The filming at Downton also means the injection of some much needed cash. A case of art imitating life?

Laura Haddock stars as Myrna Dalgleish and Michael Fox as Andy in DOWNTON ABBEY: A New Era, a Focus Features release. Credit: Ben Blackall / © 2021 Focus Features, LLC (56442300)
Laura Haddock stars as Myrna Dalgleish and Michael Fox as Andy in DOWNTON ABBEY: A New Era, a Focus Features release. Credit: Ben Blackall / © 2021 Focus Features, LLC (56442300)
Sophie McShera stars as Daisy and Lesley Nicol stars as Mrs. Patmore in DOWNTON ABBEY: A New Era, a Focus Features release. Credit: Ben Blackall / © 2021 Focus Features, LLC (56442267)
Sophie McShera stars as Daisy and Lesley Nicol stars as Mrs. Patmore in DOWNTON ABBEY: A New Era, a Focus Features release. Credit: Ben Blackall / © 2021 Focus Features, LLC (56442267)

Not content with providing his audience with all the mileage he can get out of the moving pictures scenario – starstruck maids and disdainful elders – Mr Fellowes injects a 'Crawleys on holiday' vibe by sending half the cast to the South of France – obvs.

Cue more lavish scenery and costumes and of course the comedy content that only Jim Carter's Carson can provide as he grapples with Johnny Foreigner's funny ways.

The 'plot' is contrived to within an inch of its life – the scenes are short staccato injections of all round loveliness and pithy one liners from the Dowager (Maggie Smith) with every now and then a few more long shots of beautiful Highclere Castle to keep everyone onside.

(l-r.) Harry Hadden-Paton stars as Bertie Pelham, Laura Carmichael as Lady Edith, Tuppence Middleton as Lucy Smith and Allen Leech as Tom Branson in DOWNTON ABBEY: A New Era, a Focus Features release. Credit: Ben Blackall / © 2021 Focus Features, LLC (56442261)
(l-r.) Harry Hadden-Paton stars as Bertie Pelham, Laura Carmichael as Lady Edith, Tuppence Middleton as Lucy Smith and Allen Leech as Tom Branson in DOWNTON ABBEY: A New Era, a Focus Features release. Credit: Ben Blackall / © 2021 Focus Features, LLC (56442261)

And ultimately, with a few bumps along the way, everything is resolved neatly and the characters are either paired off or happily carry on as they were...a new era? I'm not so sure, but surely a full stop.

Bask in the cosiness which the movie has to offer and feast on that tin of escapism.



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