Downton Abbey: A New Era: A welcome respite

“Sometimes fiction is a way of coping with the poison of the world that lets us survive it.” 

-Neil Gaiman, The View from the Cheap Seats. 

While I have long believed in this quote, being a great consumer of fiction (movies, books, TV shows, streaming content) I never thought I would really feel (or rather, not feel) the pain of reality (thanks to the results of the Philippine elections) while watching ‘Downton Abbey: A New Era’. 

Admittedly,I am a fan of the series – I remember, back in 2019 after my shift (which would be around 9am in the morning) I would grab a snack of P50.00 pancit at the eatery just outside Eastwood and would watch an episode on my phone via earphones before heading home. 

The Julian Fellowes’ award-winning series wrapped up in 2015 but fans just can’t have enough of it, so much so that there are now two movie events, which continue the stories of the show’s beloved characters. The 2019 film was actually the reason why I started watching the series and I have been a fan ever since. 

After a worldwide pandemic and a heartbreaking national election, I found myself sitting inside a theater I haven’t been in since January 2020, laughing and crying at Downton Abbey: A New Era. Even though it’s been three years since I last saw the characters, I was worried that not doing a refresher would have me playing catch up with the different storylines. But no, I fell right into the groove, laughing and crying with these characters that I missed. Kind of how, when old friends see each other after some time, just falling back to a familiar rhythm. 

While it was lovely to see the characters and how they were all doing, the film, following two main storylines, and a number of subplots, felt compressed in its two hour runtime. I also felt that the editing was really tight, like the transition from one storyline to the other felt rushed. I also thought that some subplots where not really necessary and could have just been removed from the film, or maybe these are a setup for the next movie event, should there be one. 

The Crawley family and their hard working staff find themselves in ‘divide and conquer’ mode, as half are on their way to the South of France to find out why a gentleman who recently passed, would leave his villa to Violet Crawley (Maggie Smith). The other half, led by Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery) stay behind to supervise a Hollywood film crew as they shoot a silent film in Downton. 

Having two separate main plotlines, which take place in different settings, allow for the characters to be scattered, and in turn, gives them their time in the spotlight. 

Each plot had their own ups but for a fan of movies, such as myself, I was particularly intrigued at getting to see how a movie in the 1930s was made. Especially since there was also a transition from silent films to ‘talkies’ during this time. It’s a plus that Hugh Dancy (Will Graham in Hannibal) plays the director of the film and gets to flirt with Lady Mary.  

It was also nice to see Barrow (Robert James-Collier) get a shot at happiness when the film’s leading man Guy Dexter (Dominic West) asks him to accompany him in his travels and to manage his affairs. 

It is rare for a franchise to have success both as a television series and in film but Downton Abbey has managed this. It’s nice to know that no matter what happens to the world (a pandemic, a critical elections) that there is a familiar place you can come back to. Where love and family are always waiting for you, along with a nice cup of tea, served by the hard working staff downstairs. 

Downton Abbey: A New Era is in cinemas May 18 and is exclusively available in select Ayala Malls Cinemas.