Simon Curtis (director)
29 April 2022 (released)
28 April 2022
Straight of the bat I’ve not seen any of the Downton Abbey TV programmes just the previous film which I was not a fan of. So I have some sort of a handle on the characters and the setting. This is however more than likely a treasure trove for fans of the TV programme with a huge cast of familiar characters and lives. Nevertheless a novice won’t be lost as the main stories and leading plots are straightforward.
Opening with a society wedding we are then whisked off to Downton Abbey and the news that the Dowager Countess of Grantham (Maggie Smith) has been left a grand property by an aristocratic acquaintance she made in France many years ago. His widow (Nathalie Baye) is challenging the will but with little chance of success. At the same time the family are made a good financial offer by a film company to use Downton’s grounds and house. That is initially resisted by the luddite Earl of Grantham (Hugh Bonneville) only to change his mind when he sees the leaky condition of the property’s roof and attic.
Not fancying hanging around with actors and technicians his lordship and others decide to 'Grand Tour' to the south of France to see the property and discuss the inheritance with their French counterparts. This rather clunkily splits the film in two though there’s nothing really lost as these storylines develop nicely enough. A frosty reception from the widow was expected though other developments not so much nor welcome.
The story back at the country pile is the more interesting as it tries to bring in the servants, touches on the gay issues of the time and also glances as films move from the silents to the talkies – the film was originally going to be silent but the rapid introduction and financial success of talkies forces the director to change.
The latter although no Singin’ in the Rain, does reflect reasonably well the trepidation that many of the silent actors must have had at the time, and indeed many never adapted. Dominic West as the man’s man leading man Guy Dexter is fine, while Laura Haddock’s caustic star Myrna Dalgleish has the right balance of rudeness, arrogance with understandable vulnerability belying the viewers’ initial reaction to her.
There are other intertwining stories of illness and love delivered by a cast that know these people intimately and probably have a deep affection for them. As such they all looked very relaxed with Julian Fellowes lines carefully tailored to the actor and their character ensuring maximum fluffy comfort for them, and fans of the show.
Its efficiently directed by Simon Curtis and looks wonderful as you would expect. Also don’t expect any sense of danger, or that any risks have been taken to upset the winning formula, there’s just a sense of the inevitable about it.