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Downton Abbey: A New Era (Movie Review)

Verdict: A fun new addition to a beloved franchise.

About The Film

Three years after the first feature-length film was released, the Downton Abbey cast has returned for another (and possibly final?) installment in the beloved British period franchise. While messing with old favorites is always risky (I still haven’t recovered from the Gilmore Girls or Full House reboots), Downton Abbey: A New Era delivers everything fans have come to love about the franchise—Downton Abbey on the verge of financial ruin, Mr. Carson (Jim Carter) huffing about things not being proper, Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery) leading the family into the future with her steady if sometimes unfeeling hand, and the Dowager Countess (Maggie Smith) stealing every scene she graces.

While the title and the most prominent storylines (of which there are many) focus on the struggles of navigating a rapidly changing world, the film itself stays snuggly within the safe boundaries fans have come to expect. As a whole, watching the film is about as comfortable as tucking into a flaky scone and warm cup of Earl Gray on a rainy afternoon. But I daresay that is okay with me.

Some might criticize Downton Abbey: A New Era for playing it too safe and tying up every storyline with a perfectly starched bow, but it’s probably best to enjoy the movie for what it is: a film about loveable, flawed characters navigating a new age (all with beautiful costumes and settings to make any Anglophile drool). While it’s hardly a cutting-edge film, it does make for a pleasant afternoon escape. And after the stressful few years we have all endured, that may be just what we need. Steep a cup of tea and settle down for some charming British escapism.

On the Surface

For Consideration

Profanity: None.  

Sexuality: Several brief kisses are shared between married characters, a few storylines relate to extramarital affairs, and a veiled homosexual storyline (though nothing physical is ever shown).     

Violence: None.

Beneath the Surface

Engage the Film

Thriving in a Changing World

 A major theme throughout the franchise is the struggle to adapt to a changing world. This film is set in the late 1920s, and the world is evolving on several fronts. The “idle elite” is a dying breed, silent films are being supplanted by “talkies,” and the older generations are making way for the youngsters coming behind them. While the Crawleys and their downstairs staff must adapt or risk being left behind, that doesn’t mean the past can (or should) always stay in the past. The film does an excellent job of highlighting the tension between retaining what is worthwhile from earlier eras while still adapting to and thriving in the future.

Leaving a Legacy

As the older generation gives way to the new, many of the characters find themselves dwelling on the legacy they are leaving behind. It’s a good reminder even to those of us who are still in the legacy-building years of our life to reflect on what matters and what investments we are making now that will outlast us.

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