From January 2011 until December 2015, American audiences turned on their television sets to watch the period drama, Downton Abby. Examining the social class differences in 1920s England, the show ran for six seasons and had five "specials" and two movies. The second film, Downton Abbey: A New Era is available for purchase on 4K and Blu-ray this week.
It's 1928 and the family is celebrating the nuptials of Tom Branson and Lucy Smith. This new exciting chapter of their lives comes in conjunction with the inheritance that Violet Crawley receives - a villa in France. Curious about this generous gift, the family tries to gently uncover just why the deceased Marquis de Montmirail bequeathed such a gift. Could they have been lovers? Is her son Robert not who we think he is? As Robert, Cora, Edith, Bertie, Tom, Lucy, and Maud set off to inspect the villa (along with Carson, Bates, and Baxter), the family at home is dealing with another incredible situation - a movie shoot at Downton.
A director propositions Robert and Mary about filming at the estate and paying a hefty sum to do so. With repairs and expenses piling up, they decide that they simply cannot pass up such an offer. They agree to the filming and look forward to having the ability to replace their badly leaking roof. However, what begins as an inconvenience becomes quite a lesson for Mary and the others, as they learn new things about themselves and find they are tested along the way.
I was originally put off seeing this film's trailers; I thought they made it look a bit goofy and over the top. I went in not expecting much, and boy, was I wrong. I wound up enjoying the film more than the first, as it really dealt with the lives of the characters as the series did. The first film was very much about the King and Queen's visit, with little character development. But in "Downton Abbey: A New Era", it was like watching a 2-hour long tv episode. We got to see the development of the relationships of the characters and where they are personally in their lives; for better or worse.
Reprising their roles for this film are Hugh Bonneville as Robert Crawley, Elizabeth McGovern as Cora Crawley, Michelle Dockery as Lady Mary Talbot, Laura Carmichael as Edith Pelham, Allen Leech as Tom Branson, Jim Carter as Charles Carson, Raquel Cassidy as Phyllis Baxter, Brendan Coyle as John Bates, Kevin Doyle as Joseph Molesley, Michael Fox as Andy Parker, Joanne Froggatt as Anna Bates, Harry Hadden-Paton as Herbert "Bertie" Pelham, Robert James-Collier as Thomas Barrow, Phyllis Logan as Elsie Carson, Sophie McShera as Daisy Parker, Tuppence Middleton as Lucy Branson, Lesley Nicol as Beryl Patmore, Maggie Smith as Violet Crawley, Imelda Staunton as Maud Bagshaw, Penelope Wilton as Isobel Grey, Samantha Bond as Lady Rosamund Painswick, Sue Johnston as Gladys Denker, Douglas Reith as Richard "Dickie" Grey, Paul Copley as Albert Mason, and David Robb as Dr. Richard Clarkson. Newcomers include Hugh Dancy as Jack Barber, Laura Haddock as Myrna Dagleish, Dominic West as Guy Dexter, Jonathan Zaccaï as Edouard, Marquis de Montmirail, Nathalie Baye as Madame Montmirail, Ales McQueen as Mr. Stubbins, and Jonathan Coy as George Murray.
The veteran cast is, as usual, superb in their roles and the newcomers added some extra oomph and style to the film and helped bring out the best in what this franchise really is - a story about people who share their lives - family, blood and otherwise. This installment was particularly touching for so many reasons. We have new beginnings and sad endings, as well as steady continuations of the family dynasty. It's an absolute must for anyone who followed along with all the characters that lived under the Crawley's roof, and an incentive for others to begin their Downton journey.
Visually, this film is a treat for the eyes. The filming and storyline that takes place in the South of France allows for more vibrant colors in the scenery as well as the costumes. A beautiful light airiness is seen, even in the England scenes. The summer weather allows for a breezy feeling throughout.
Of course, this is all enhanced by the 2160p video quality and 2.39 aspect ratio. The surroundings are detailed and the costumes are clear and clean. Complimenting the video is an equally detailed audio track recorded in Atmos. Dialogue is crisp and the soundtrack in the background is robust and offers depth. Along with this film, there are some extras that are more than worth the watch. They are:
- "Good To Be Back" - Cast members discuss what it's like to be reunited with their tv/film family.
- "Return to Downton Abbey: The Making of a New Era" - Take an in-depth look at what it takes to produce this film, including the work that each department puts into creating the set.
- "A Legendary Character" - This touching feature showcases the redoubtable Dowager Countess of Grantham and the legendary actress who portrays her, Dame Maggie Smith.
- "Creating the Film Within the Film" - An in-depth look at creating a 1920s version of a film set in the Victorian era, including costumes, film equipment, and props.
- "Her Majesty's Yacht Britannia" - Learn about the historical yacht once owned by the Royal Family, that was used as a ferry in the film.
- "Spill the Tea (Time)" - Laura Carmichael and Allen Leech sit down to drink (and dish) some tea.
- Feature Commentary with Director Simon Curtis
In closing, I cannot recommend this film enough! It was a touching, funny, warm visit back with one of our favorite families and the people they share their lives with. I really didn't want it to end, and I am hoping that they do another; however, as the Dowager Countess says, "We don't always get out just desserts."