Join the Crawley family in Downton Abbey (2019), the (supposedly) greatest adventure of all – hosting the King and Queen.
Sometimes long-distance relationships work out. And, four years after the last season of Downton Abbey hit our screens, leaving us all drenched in inexplicably good reactionary emotion, we can well say we have been living a long-distance relationship for a while. But now the time has come to walk back into the light-flooded, so-very-20thcentury halls of our beloved country mansion and join the Crawley family once more as they affectedly wade through the busiest day of their lives: the King and Queen of the United Kingdom are paying a visit to the household, and everything has to be perfect.
Not much has changed at Downton: witty dialogue goes along with sugar at tea time, and there’s plenty of hereditary problems on the menu. The incidents in the lives of the privileged ones find their Shakespearian counterparts in the lives of the servants. Even the shooting technique and the editing style remain the same, to the point that the only things we can remember as we leave the theatre are the tilting movements of the camera, the drone shots, and the carefully intermingled details and pictorial landscapes – which all the more contribute to the trademark grandeur of Downton. Downton will be Downton: a place where everything comes down to a battle between the good old ways and the threatening – yet alluring – possibility of change.
Not much has changed at Downton indeed; and that is its fatal flaw. Clearly designed to attract the old devotees to bigger, more prestigious screens, the film ends up being a straitjacket to make the plotlines fit into little less than 120 minutes. The characters lack breathing space, and were it not for Lady Violet (Maggie Smith) and her in-built deadpan seriousness, we would face an army of mechanical puppets who could only repeat themselves over and over again. Nothing is unexpected at Downton. Everything is predictable.
So, whether you are looking for the elevating feelings of secret romances or ingenious political schemes, you should find something else to spend your evening with. Producer Julian Fellowes and director Michael Engler have turned “the” posh TV show of our times into a farce – and no Oscar Wilde to infuse life into it. The vaguely hinted-at social and gender critique fits all the stereotypes too: nothing more than some innocuous Cinderella story that will take your mind off all the Brexit wear and tear for a couple of hours – is it then what we really asked for?
The film is nonetheless enjoyable. You will laugh, you will cry. You will remember the old times as you float on the notes of John Lunn’s signature theme song. After a long separation, the two paramours are eventually reunited only to discover they do not have much to say to each other anymore. So maybe this is the lesson we should learn from this last chapter of the Downton Abbey saga: love stories are always best when they are cut short at their very climax. The rest, as they say, is a storm in a teacup.
Downton Abbey (2019) is now available to watch on digital and on demand.