You know what you’re getting with the Downton Abbey movie, and you very much get it.
by Charlotte Harrison
There’s a long-standing tradition in Britain for turning our beloved TV shows into films. It’s a risk, taking much loved characters and the world they live in and chucking it onto the big screen. Sometimes it works, the canvas being widened allowing for more depth and detail. Other times it simply feels bloated, revealing the cracks in something we were once fond of.
Fear not, for Downton Abbey (The Movie) is an example of it working – mostly.
Whilst it feels like an extended episode, clocking in at 123 minutes, it’s a solid one that will certainly satisfy fans. Using the narrative of ‘big event occurs that our characters must deal with’ – in this case the King and Queen coming to stay at Downton Abbey as part of their Yorkshire tour – we get to see our favourites doing the things we like most about them.
Carson commands, Branson broods, Bates believes, Patmore potters and Dowager Lady Crawley continues to steal the show with her withering and caustic wit. All are assembled and all is right with the world.
Downton Abbey was always essentially a soap, just set in the early 20th Century. Characters plot and scheme, fawn then fall in love, keep secrets or reveal them in grandiose ways and find ways to solve problems that have just the briefest flicker of peril. All of that features over the course of the run up to the royal visit and their stay; shenanigans occur, with each scene lasting barely a couple of minutes before moving on to the next problem that has arisen. All with melodramatic music playing over the top of an endless array of ‘Oh you!’ or ‘Gosh, what will happen now’ faces.
It’s all predictable and safe, and pretty much everything that plays out is signposted some way off.
In this instance, however, this is not criticism but praise. The world of Downton has been well placed on the big screen, with everything that works about it being present and correct. It’s hardly ambitious, but does what it’s supposed to do. Think of watching this like slipping into your favourite chair, wrapped in your favourite blanket and sipping your favourite drink. It’s comfort watching, and posh comfort watching at that.
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