Downton Abbey: A New Era is a masterpiece - movie review

Published By Alexandra Heilbron on May 18, 2022

It seems like it would be impossible to top the extremely beloved long-running Downton Abbey series and the movie that followed, but creator Julian Fellowes has done it. Not only has he included every one of the characters that fans have grown to love, but in Downton Abbey: A New Era, set in 1928, he's given them two storylines that include adventure, intrigue, mystery and suspense.

A welcome addition to the cast is Hugh Dancy in the role of a movie director who wants to shoot his latest silent film at Downton. Mary (Michelle Dockery) reluctantly agrees, because the upkeep of running a castle is costly, and the amount offered will cover the many repairs Downton needs. Although her father Robert (Hugh Bonneville) doesn't like the thought of film people traipsing around the castle, he agrees that the money would be beneficial. However, Mr. Carson (Jim Carter) is outraged and if it were up to him, he wouldn't allow it. If you remember, Carson doesn't work at Downton anymore, but his wife (Phyllis Logan) is afraid her life will be made miserable as this is going on, so she convinces Mary that Carson should go to France with Robert.

That leads us to the other plot. Violet (Maggie Smith) has received a letter from the lawyer of an old admirer she knew long ago in France. He has passed away, leaving her a villa in the South of France. She's been invited by the man's son to visit, so she asks Robert, Cora (Elizabeth McGovern), Edith (Laura Carmichael), Bertie (Harry Hadden-Paton), Rosamund (Samantha Bond), Tom (Allen Leech) and his new bride Lucy (Tuppence Middleton), as well as Lucy's mother Maud (Imelda Staunton) to go on her behalf.

Needless to say, the silent film runs into a myriad of problems during shooting and Mary finds herself getting more involved with the production than she'd planned, while the folks in France uncover a mystery that becomes increasingly upsetting to Robert.

If you haven't seen the series and first movie, it may be difficult to keep all these characters straight, especially their relationships to each other. It took me a moment at times to remember who certain people were, especially characters who were introduced in the first movie or later in the series, even though I've seen all the episodes and the first movie more than once. Also, sometime between the first and second movie, Daisy (Sophie McShera) and Andy (Michael Fox) were married!

I absolutely love that everyone had a distinct storyline. Barrow (Robert James-Collier) has settled into the role of butler very well (remember how much trouble he caused in the early seasons?), but he's a little subdued and melancholy here. He doesn't really mix with the other downstairs staff, who are thrilled that film stars will be coming to Downton, partly because he realizes the frightening possibility that he may never find love -- that all he'll ever be in life is a butler. Cora has a health scare, Robert has a different kind of scare, and Edith decides to return to writing part-time.

Kevin Doyle as Mr. Molesley has a storyline that will leave his fans very satisfied, and he garnered many laughs as Molesley manages to insert himself into the film's production. I was happy to see that Denker (Sue Johnston), Isobel's former maid (who was in the series but not in the first movie), now works at Downton, hilariously disapproving of everything and everyone.

Isobel (Penelope Wilton), who is one of my favorite characters, is featured along with her husband, Lord Merton (Douglas Reith), although she doesn't get as many funny lines as she has had in past projects. But she is key in the storyline about Violet, which was gratifying. Maggie Smith as Violet gets so many hilarious lines (the audience was roaring with laughter every time she uttered another quip) that I was wondering which of these would become a catchphrase to equal "What is a weekend?" The children -- Sybil and Tom's daughter Sybbie (Fifi Hart); Mary and Matthew's son George (Oliver and Zac Barton); Edith's daughter Marigold (Eva and Karina Samms); and Caroline (Bibi and Olive Burr), Mary's daughter (who is the spitting image of Mary) with her second husband, Henry Talbot, were all included and although Caroline was a new character, the other children are the original actors -- all of whom were featured in the series and the first movie.

Downton Abbey: A New Era is the perfect length at 2 hours and 4 minutes and had this Downton Abbey fan smiling from the moment it began with Tom's wedding to Lucy. I was even more thrilled when we got our first look in the film at beautiful Highclere Castle, which stands in as Downton Abbey (another of my favorite characters. I know, it's a building, but it's a breathtaking, gorgeous one and it's like seeing an old friend when it arrives onscreen).

Downton fans are going to want to see this movie more than once. If you haven't seen the series or the first movie, there's still much to enjoy in this film, and you'll probably want to get caught up by watching the earlier projects after seeing it to find out more about all these incredible and complex characters -- and their relationships to each other. ~Alexandra Heilbron

5 out of 5 stars.

Comment below if you're a fan of Downton Abbey and let us know if you're going to see Downton Abbey: A New Era -- or if you've already seen it, what you thought of it. Also tell us who's your favorite character and what path would you like to see them go on in this movie or in a future plot?

If you've already seen Downton Abbey: A New Era, you can click here to leave your own rating and review on the Downton Abbey: A New Era synopsis page.

Comments & Discussion

  1. Joan ely • 5/18/2022 8:49:50 PM

    Loved it, I’ve seen it on television now three times. Thinking of watching it again, and then going to see the movie. Loved every character. Feel bad for people that haven’t followed it. I’ve missed a lot of great entertainment. Can’t wait to see this movie.

  2. Palma Coatney • 5/19/2022 8:52:34 PM

    Holding my breath until I see new movie, "Downton Abby, New Era", Die-heart fan of first series. Have watched at least 50 times including movie. Reminds me of movies from old Hollywood when they were story tellers. Downton Abby is refreshing entertainment.

  3. Sherry Finley • 5/20/2022 12:08:24 AM

    I watched Downton Abby, the series with my sister before she passed. She got me hooked on it. I now love ? that show. I seen the first movie on television this week. I plan on going with my other sister to see Downton Abby, a New Era as soon as it comes to a theater near me. Hopefully, it will be this weekend. I can't wait to see it. I wish that my other sister was still here to go to it with. I knew that she would love it. Maybe she will be their with us in Spirit as least I hope so. I know that she would love ? it.

  4. Jane • 5/20/2022 9:29:54 AM

    I'm going to see it tonight with a friend who loves it as much as I do - and he's a guy. :) Thank you for the review, it makes me even more impatient to finally see it and you're right, I will definitely be going more than once.

  5. Natalie Gibbs • 5/20/2022 12:09:56 PM

    I would really like to see Thomas Barrow be reunited with the handsome Valet from Buckingham Palace. About time he got some love .

  6. Kia • 5/20/2022 4:24:36 PM

    I can't wait because I must know when then movie will be released inn the New Haven, Ct. area. Please advise asap so I can get my popcorn and grab a comfortable seat!

  7. Mary Jordan • 5/21/2022 2:54:46 PM

    I haven’t seen it yet but plan to in the next day or two, and way more than once! I have just watched the three day marathon of Downton on TV for the last few days, including the first movie. I love this recap of A New Era - but there is one small mistake here - does anyone else spot it? I am so pleased that Rosemond, the talented Samantha Bond - is in this movie, also hoping to see Dr Clarkson & Mr Mason - and so hoping Henry makes an appearance somewhere, somehow? I always miss Dan Stevens as Matthew Crawley. I cannot wait to finally see it!!!

  8. Janet • 5/21/2022 5:16:56 PM

    I didn't realize there was a first film. I bought the DVD set when it came out and turned into a couch potato for a week. Watch the entire series is far better than Clif hanging for days. I'm going to check out the original film and then hope to catch the New Era. Sounds excellent.

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