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Downton Abbey: A New Era Review – A Lively & Emotional Return To A Beloved World

In 2019 Focus Features and creator Julian Fellowes brought the beloved British television series Downton Abbey to the big screen in a film that felt like a fitting bookend to the saga. However it also proved to be such a success that a sequel seemed inevitable and now after a handful of delays Downton Abbey A New Era arrives to bring audiences back to the titular estate they know and love. In some ways the mere presence of another movie threatens to undo some of the sweet moments established in the first but Fellowes along with director Simon Curtis manages to build upon what came before in a satisfying way. Downton Abbey A New Era will satisfy fans of the original series serving up a pair of storylines that have fun and heart in equal measure.

Picking up sometime after the first film the residents of Downton are thrown for a loop when the Dowager Countess Maggie Smith inherits a French villa from a man she knew back in her youth. Her family particularly her son Robert Hugh Bonneville are baffled by this sudden mystery and resolve to learn more by traveling to France to meet with the mans son Jonathan Zaccaï. Meanwhile Mary Michelle Dockery stays behind to oversee a film production that has decided to make Downton its set an exciting event that sends the downstairs staff into a tizzy as the modern world once again collides with the old fashioned household.

The first Downton Abbey movie even with a plot involving an illegitimate child and an assassination attempt against the King of England felt remarkably low stakes it was more of an opportunity to reunite with the television shows beloved characters than anything else. With Downton Abbey A New Era Fellowes and Curtis have stepped things up a bit. There are more shades of the shows soapy drama and Fellowes has concocted some truly fun situations for the characters to experience. In the cases of those like Mary Mr. Carson Jim Carter and Daisy Sophie McShera Downton Abbey A New Era pushes them into unique positions thus allowing both the actors and Fellowes to demonstrate just how far theyve come. Longtime fans of the series will no doubt be amused by some of the scenarios that arise for example theres a scene with the downstairs staff late in the game that will likely lead to smiles and laughter.

In that sense Downton Abbey A New Era more than justifies its existence as a surprise sequel to a movie based on a television show that ended conclusively. It makes for an entertaining viewing experience though there is still an impression that this is a TV installment made long. Curtis tries to bring some cinematic flair with the help of editor Adam Recht and cinematographer Andrew Dunn but the action still comes across as episodic. Luckily though Downton Abbey A New Era makes up for it with the overall beauty of Dunns visuals and the sweeping score from John Lunn. This world may have begun on television but it is rather suited for the big screen. It helps that Downton Abbey A New Era broadens its scope to visit the south of France for the plot involving the Dowagers surprise villa.

With a cast as large as Downton Abbeys it is inevitable that some stars might get the short end of the stick. This was true in the first film and its still true here. However there are plenty who get sweet moments to shine. Of the returning core cast Smith remains a standout. Though the first film appeared to give her Violet a fitting send off she returns here with several new witty barbs and poignant moments with characters like Mary and Isobel Penelope Wilton. Smith is a delight whether she is imparting advice to her granddaughter or reacting with dismay to the movie star interlopers. Elizabeth McGovern as Cora gets a surprising storyline that allows both her and Bonneville some great moments and of the downstairs staff McShera perhaps gets to have the most fun. Overall the cast is excellent and newcomers like Dominic West Laura Haddock and Hugh Dancy weave their way into the established group of characters with ease.

Does the world really need another Downton Abbey movie? Some might argue it does not but first and foremost this remains a film for the fans. As such Downton Abbey A New Era is a triumph. After several tumultuous years returning to a well known universe with beloved characters is a balm and anyone who has followed along with the Crawleys will find plenty of enjoyment within the film. Between the amusing storylines and gorgeous shots of the eponymous estate there is real heart within this film. Audiences will find themselves laughing and crying by the time the credits roll. And while it seems like A New Era really does bring everything to a close there could definitely be room for more Downton Abbey in the future.

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