Downton Abbey movie poster

Downton Abbey

In theaters September 20, 2019


122 minutes

Directed by:

Starring: , , ,

Admittedly, I’ve never watched a single frame of Downton Abbey, but I’m not a complete cultural dullard. I knew it was a period piece, or costume drama, chronicling the lives of early 20th Century minor royalty and the household servants who kept their estate. It’s familiar and very PBS, so it was a chance I was willing to take. I’m glad I did.

The Crawleys are expecting King George and Queen Mary as part of a Royal tour through the 9 Realms (I don’t understand how the monarchy owns stuff, so go with it). Downton Abbey is thrown into a minor but very English turmoil. Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery) is unsure if running an estate is something she even wants to do anymore, and now she has to plan for a royal visit. When the Royals send an advance team to make preparations, the Crawley staff is put off by their absolute arrogance at basically everything. This is also very English and the plucky manor staff shows its collective claws in subtle and clandestine.

Meanwhile, Violet, you may call her the Dowager Countess (Maggie Smith) prepares to battle (or maybe I mean eviscerate) the Queen’s Lady-in-waiting, who happens to be her cousin Lady Maud (Imelda Staunton). There is some manner of an estate and inheritance they are in disagreement over and we get to watch Isobel (Penelope Wilton) match barbs and zings with Violent. Violet the woman I want to be when I grow up.

Mr. Carson (Jim Carson) has to come out of retirement, Daisy (Sophie McShera) and Andy (Michael C. Fox)) have an on-again/off-again engagement, Tom (Allen Leech) and Thomas (Robert James-Collier) are under suspicion for completely different things that could still bring ruin to the house, and the familiar tune of “best-laid plans” plays out for the 122 minutes.

Look, everyone is here and everyone has a speaking part and unlike a lot of American adaptations brought to the biog screen, it doesn’t feel crowded or forced. Here I’m thinking of films like The X-Files (1998), which honestly felt like shoehorning and then flattening a 44-minute procedural into 2 hours. Downton Abbey feels relaxed and natural, without being padded for time. There’s no “Bigger is Better for Big Screen.”

Even if you don’t know anything about Downton Abbey (I didn’t) it’s an enjoyable little film. Characters are introduced as if we’ve known them forever (and some of you have) but those of us without a formal introduction aren’t treated to unnecessary minutes of exposition and family which would have dragged down the story. It’s nice to not be treated like an idiot.

Downton Abbey gets a bit saggy in the third act, but everyone manages to remain very English and devious while mortified and panicking. It’s a light drama and a refreshing change of pace from what we’ve been seeing. I’m not about to binge the previous seasons, but I can totally see how so many people love it and the characters.

Downton Abbey is Rated PG because proper English aristocracy aren’t vulgar, however, there are a few swears, people saying goodbye with their lips, and some light action that felt really tense for such a genteel show.

Downton Abbey is streaming now on the following services:
Movie Reelist Contributor: MontiLee Stormer
MontiLee Stormer is a writer of horror, dark and urban fantasy. She’s also is a troublemaker, concocting acts of mayhem and despair for her own selfish pleasure. An avid movie watcher, she prefers horror but will see just about anything if you're buying. Poltergeist (1982) is her favorite movie and she actively hates The Shining (1980) due to its racism, misogyny, the butchering of the source material. She could host a TEDtalk on this single subject. Writing about herself in the third person is just a bonus.

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