Review: Downton Abbey returns for a royal visit

Morgan Brazier, Editor-in-Chief

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For six seasons I religiously watched the PBS period piece Downton Abbey and enjoyed every second of it. The show was set in England from 1912-1925 and centered on the Crawleys, a wealthy aristocratic family trying to hold onto their estate, and the servants of their house. When the show ended, I was devastated and proceeded to re-watch the whole thing with my mom. So naturally when the Downton Abbey movie was announced I was beyond excited, and it lived up to all my expectations.

The plot line of the movie starts about two years after the show’s end and centers around the King and Queen of England coming to Downton as part of their royal tour and the house preparing for their visit. I think this was a perfect idea for the plot of the movie, it kept up the elegance of Downton Abbey, and wasn’t an over the top plot, which I was a bit afraid of when I learned there would be a movie.

My biggest concern for the movie was that the lovable characters the show had so gracefully created and developed would appear flat in the movie, but I found that all of them retained their original charm and depth.

Perhaps the most complex of Downton’s characters, Lady Mary Crawley, spent the first few seasons of the show as a rather unkind young woman, especially to her sister Edith. But as the show went on, she became much more likable and we got to see the many facets of her character, although she still had moments of selfish behavior. Her character in the movie displayed the same qualities, a bit stiff and perhaps self centered, but overall a strong and compelling character. In the movie, we see her resolve longstanding doubts about the future of the family estate with grace.

What I’ve always thought made Downton Abbey so great was the attachment the viewer feels towards all the characters, which is why I was so excited to see where they would be in the movie. Even the ones who you could only describe as wicked are still tremendously fun to watch and you sympathize so much with the heartache both the family and the servants endure. The movie kept this up, giving us a few more hours of the characters we’ve grown to love.

However, there were two parts of the movie that I have minor criticisms for. First is the plot line in which the Downton servants rebel against the royal servants that have accompanied the king and queen to the estate. The royal servants insist on doing everything in the house while the king and queen are there, but the house servants see it as a huge invasion of their territory. As a solution, the Downton servants devise a plan to trap the royal butler and chef so the house servants can serve the king and queen. While thoroughly entertaining to watch, I felt this part was a bit unrealistic. The Downton Abbey servants I know would never do anything, especially something so risky, that would jeopardize the integrity of the house.

The other part of the movie I wasn’t thrilled to see was the sub-plot in which Princess Mary wrestled with leaving her husband. When we first see Princess Mary she has invited the Crawley women to luncheon at her house (its more like a castle if we’re being honest) and is excited to see her children when they are brought in by her nanny. Her husband then comes in and yells that the children shouldn’t be in the dining room and gives off an incredibly controlling aura which I did not care for at all.

Princess Mary makes a comment to her mother later on about leaving her husband, but later talks to Tom Branson, the son-in-law of the Crawleys, who explains that he almost took his daughter away from the luxurious life, but ultimately decided not to because she belonged at Downton with the rest of her family. This prompted Princess Mary to stay with her husband as to not cause any trouble or divide her family.

I was extremely frustrated with this decision because it made it seem like Princess Mary leaving her husband would have been “the wrong choice” and that everything was better because she was staying with him even though he seemed borderline abusive. Also the situation with Tom Branson was completely different and I did not feel there was any real comparison. I do understand that it wouldn’t have made sense for Mary to actually leave her husband in the movie as that would not have been historically accurate, but I wish this sequence of events had been portrayed differently.

Overall, the Downton Abbey movie was just as enjoyable as the show and, as happy as I am that it exists, I am sad that I have already watched it and once again have no more Downton Abbey to look forward to.

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