If you’ve ever felt your heart swell during the opening theme song, longed to spend just one day receiving tea and visitors in the study, or laughed at the Dowager Countess pondering, “What is…a weekend?” then you’re a Downton Abbey fan.
And I have good news – you are home.
It’s been three years since we last said goodbye to the Lord and Lady Grantham, their family and their staff. It’s now 1927 and as announced when daughter Edith and her husband and child arrive without a valet or a nanny — they’re “modern folk” now.
Much like the Christmas special that ended every six-episode season, the film tells a self-contained and simple story.
The King and Queen are coming to visit and will spend the night at Downton Abbey. Much to their own dismay, the family is excited and the staff can barely contain themselves.
With so much to do, Thomas Barrow the newly appointed head butler (fans of the show will remember he assumed the post from the beloved Mr. Carson at series-end when Carson retired for health reasons) is in over his head, and the retired Mr. Carson is called in as reinforcement.
Turns out, that reinforcement is well needed because when the royal staff shows up in advance of the king and queen, they all but kick the Downton staff from the premises, saying their standards couldn’t possibly be high enough.
After being unceremoniously removed from their posts the staff revolts, led by Mr. Bates and Anna, aiming to take back their rightful place in the house.
Upstairs tensions abound. The family hopes son-in-law Tom Branson can keep his wild Irish revolutionary opinions to himself and the Dowager can keep from starting trouble with a wealthy cousin (played by newcomer to the series Imelda Staunton) who refuses to name Lord Grantham her heir.
It’s all terribly dramatic in the most wonderful way.
The good news is that the entire cast is back together – all 20 characters you’ve come to know and love. They each have at least a quick part in the story and an update on their lives (except cousin Rose, but she’s off living her wild life in America so it wouldn’t have made sense to have her back).
The bad news is if you haven’t already watched the show the movie might leave your head spinning – best to do yourself a favour and start at Season 1 before diving in.
Those who have had the privilege of spending 52 episodes with the Crawley’s will quickly realize how much they’ve missed Maggie Smith (real life Royalty by anyone’s standards) throwing barbs at eternal nemesis Isobel Merton (played beautifully as always by Penelope Wilton).
When Anna implores Lady Mary to keep Downton going because it’s the heart of the community they’ll realize it’s part of their heart as well – this silly, old-fashioned soap opera from a time that might as well be a million years ago continues to be note perfect.
There is no other television show or cast that can compare.