Does Downton Abbey work as a film? Should you take your non-DA-addict friend or partner to see it? Will there be posh frocks and implausible plots? These and many other important questions are answered in LJ Trafford’s Historia review.
The world is neatly divided into those who have never seen Downton Abbey and those who force their begrudging offspring to attend high tea, moan constantly about the ‘staff issues’ and wear a tiara most evenings, despite living in a 1960s semi in Slough.
Downton Abbey the movie is very much not for the former; no concessions are made for the non-DA viewer. The poor loves will spend the entirety of the two-hour running time in constant bewilderment, whispering helplessly to their companion DA watcher to explain who is related to whom and whether they are dead. Best to leave them at home, I say.
Though, it should be pointed out that even the hardcore DA fan will find themselves bewildered by several huge gaping plot hole hangovers from the series. Mostly noticeably ex-butler Carson’s disappearing Parkinsons, 40 years before the use of levodopa.
But ours is not to wonder why (because otherwise we’d be on an eternal loop of obsessing over what happened to that bloke who said he was Downton’s true heir, who in fact did not die on the Titanic and who has not been mentioned since Series 2 ) but rather to sit back and enjoy the warm sensation spreading up from your extremities to the core of your being. For Downton Abbey the movie is the film equivalent of a hot cup of tea after being caught in an unexpected downpour whilst taking the dog for a walk. It is, in short, just what you need.
It is 1927, and the excitement is bouncing off the soft furnishings when it’s announced The King and Queen will be visiting Downton! However, this elation (most amply displayed by footman and Royal fanboy, Molesley) is dampened when the palace brings in their own crack team of butlers, maids, footmen and miscellaneous background staff employed to give the notion of grandeur. The Downton downstairs, frustrated and snubbed by these usurpers, plan a revenge.
As usual with Downton, this is just one plot amongst roughly 67 others. And as usual, some of them you won’t give a shiny shilling about: a mysterious stranger asking questions about Tom the-one-that-used-to-be-the-chauffeur Branson, Daisy and Andy’s faltering wedding plans, the disappearance of a silver box.
Others you will find you care more about than anything else ever. I tied myself in knots over whether Edith’s ballgown would arrive on time. A seemingly inconsequential storyline but one which, DA superfans will recognise, with Edith’s bad luck, could quickly spiral from a cutting remark by Mary to divorce, single parenthood and destitution for the younger Crawley sister.
There is also important news for those who find themselves at 2am watching YouTube videos of gay butler Thomas looking sad to a background of 90s indie music. Which, err, is not me, honest. Let us just say that those vloggers will be rushing to update their films with the more cheerful Cure back catalogue.
As this is The Historia, I should perhaps mention something of the historical content. Bear with me, because this is really not my period (which might explain my unequivocal enjoyment of DA), but the King and Queen in question are George V and Queen Mary. They have a sad daughter, Princess Mary, who has an awful husband with an even more awful moustache. A quick Google reveals this is true. He did have a terrible moustache.
Elsewhere a boiler breakdown allows the shoehorning in of a couple of lines reflecting on how much better servants have it in these days of indoor plumbing. Apparently, there’s been a general strike, which makes for a bit of small talk over dinner, and Daisy’s still intent on bringing about the revolution by whinging about absolutely everything.
But that’s not why we’re here, is it? Rest assured the costumes are beautiful, the sweeping aerial shots of Downton stunning and every time the film risks collapse from too many plots, it’s saved by Maggie Smith saying something cutting but witty.
We wouldn’t have it any other way.
You can also read LJ Trafford’s Rubicon interview here in Historia.