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Downton revisited

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Downton Abbey brings together all the favourite TV series’ characters in its big screen debut

Downton Abbey (PG)
Running time 2hr 2min
Rating: ***

THE daily routines of the Crawley household finally make their debut on the big screen in this cinematic continuation of the hit TV show. In classic Downton fashion, the plot revolves around the King and Queen coming to stay at the estate on their Yorkshire tour. Both the family upstairs and the maids and servants downstairs prepare for the visit as we get re-introduced to all of the series’ beloved characters.

In a similar fashion to the television show, everyone has their own storyline. Although this works well in a more drawn-out format, the film does falter from borrowing this aspect from television.
All the film’s plotlines are quickly set up and then neatly resolved before the credits roll in quite a predictable nature. Due to the sheer number of characters in the film all having their own individual stories, the two-hour runtime doesn’t allow for any of these plotlines to fully develop or have much interesting emotional depth.

A prime example is what happens to the butler, Thomas Barrow. After Lady Mary brings the old butler Carson back to resume his duties when royalty comes to stay, Barrow is left at his wits end until he befriends a member of the royal household and they spend the night together in York.

Barrow struggling to come to terms with his homosexuality in such a conservative era was always such a great aspect of the series. Although the outcome of Barrow’s evening is positive and heart-
warming, it is dealt with in a sickly-sweet, over-sentimental fashion. The same can be said of Branson falling in love with a maid. Their affair is marked by wooden acting and an almost sudden and unstoppable attraction that isn’t very believable at all.

However, the simplicity of the film’s plot is also a positive. Just like the series, the film makes for a pleasant and gratifying viewing experience. Maggie Smith still steals the spotlight in most scenes she appears with her humorous quips and classic one-liners. The music is just as rousing and historically suitable as ever and the intrigue and fascination towards life in one of Britain’s noble houses is still Downton’s main attraction.

The film’s props, costumes and sets are lavish, beautiful and highly successful in immersing viewers into the aristocratic world of 1920s Britain. The imagining of the period is better than on television. The camerawork is organic and fluid. In many of the dinner party and ballroom scenes it feels as if you yourself are a guest wandering through the different groups of lords and ladies and the establishing shots of Downton (Highclere Castle) are just breathtaking.

Although the very essence of Downton Abbey is far more suited to television than the big screen, the film is reasonably successful in upgrading to the opulence of cinema while also maintaining the charm of the original series. It may not be as well-written or as well-acted as the original, but it is still pleasurable and satisfying to enter the world of Downton once more.

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