Tuesday, 17 September 2019

FILM REVIEW: Downton Abbey - Cineworld, Bolton.

Sunday evening. I’ve just had my roast beef dinner and have enjoyed this week’s episode of Countryfile and Antiques Roadshow, I flick over to ITV for the latest episode of the hit historical drama, Downton Abbey; except Downton Abbey isn’t on television anymore, it’s a Monday, it’s 3:50PM, and I’m sat in a cinema with four other people and savoury rice is for tea.

Much to the derision of my friends and even some members of my family, I have been a massive fan of the period drama since it first aired back in 2010. As a young twenty-something who is into that sort of stuff I’m certainly in a minority. However I was a little doubtful that I would enjoy the film, as big screen versions of television shows have never been that great. On The Buses and that Brideshead Revisited film from about a decade ago that you'd all forgotten about until I just mentioned it now come to mind.

Produced and written by the Academy Award-winning Lord Julian Fellowes and directed by American theatre and television director Michael Engler, the Downton Abbey 2019 Christmas Special is an exceptionally average film, but my God was it enjoyable. I’m cripplingly sentimental and nostalgic, and this film was like embracing an old friend. I was filled with a warm fuzzy feeling the moment I heard the main theme and saw the main characters.

Another subtitle for this film ought to be, How To Prepare For A Royal Visit 101. Downton Abbey has it all, roofs in need of repair, flirtatious plumbers, homosexual adventures in interwar Yorkshire, the IRA which are never referred to as the IRA but it’s clearly the IRA, too many damn chairs and not enough people to put them out, kleptomania, French chefs, and all while the King and Queen are visiting!

One thing I always liked about the storytelling of Downton, was that nothing brews for too long; unlike so many television shows today which leave stuff to boil over until the very end, you can rely on Downton Abbey to quickly resolve a matter, and the film is no different as you are whisked through one crisis and resolution after another all the while still climbing to the climax... a grand ball (which I may digress reminded me somewhat of the ball scene from Visconti’s The Leopard, albeit not as grand). I’m glad that the original cast and director were able to return, as the look and feel of the show is retained for the film, something which I feel is quite often lost on big screen adaptations of small screen shows.

The intended audience for this film is so small that no-one can really expect it to break box office records or win the critics over. If you didn’t like the television show then you aren’t going to enjoy the film, conversely though, if you didn’t watch the show but want to watch the film then I suggest that you lock yourself away for a day or two and watch all the episodes as the film makes no attempt to re-introduce the characters. If you happen to fall into that niche group of people who have no interest in Downton but wish to see a film that centres on a Royal visit (I know you exist), then The Naked Gun is the film for you.

I imagine that in a year’s time or so, this film will have been largely forgotten. The whole Downton Abbey story has had two perfect endings now, and I am concerned that in this age of sequels/ spin-offs/ and reboots, the same effect isn’t going to be achieved for a third time.

I realise that for a film review, I haven’t really touched upon many of the filmic elements of Downton Abbey. As previously stated, the look and feel of the show are there, the cinematography is as lavish and rose-tinted as usual, the mise-en-scene is as historically accurate and rose-tinted as usual, the music is by John Lunn who did the show. I must admit there isn’t much to comment on really. It’s no cinematic masterpiece, the film as a whole is consistently good and has no wish to go above that level, but it’s the first film that I have thoroughly enjoyed since going to see Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight all those years ago.

Downton Abbey is 24 karat ludicrousness, that’s stuffed to the brim with pomp and ceremony, draped in a rose tint, which celebrates the class system and it knows it. The show was no different. Fellowes stated somewhere that he intended for the film to be a break from Brexit and it worked. It could have easily been a Christmas/ New Year special, but I liked the novelty of seeing it on the big screen. Wasn’t the 1910s and 1920s so good with its wars and Spanish flu epidemics and civil unrest? Yes, it was bloody brilliant.

Reviewer - Daryl Griffin
on - 16/9/19

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