Familiarity is king when it comes to cinema at the moment. Superheroes, video games, and even the Jackass crew have all found success prodding at our nostalgia over the last few months. It’s the perfect time for the return of Downton Abbey, the cosy TV drama which led to an even cosier 2019 film.
The previous film’s formula surrounded the frictions that arose in the house from a visit from royalty. This time around, it’s the movies, as a film director (Hugh Dancy) offers the baffled Earl of Grantham (Hugh Bonneville) a large cheque to use Downton for his latest epic. Both downstairs and upstairs occupants are dazzled by the arrival of a film star (Dominic West), while some members of the family head to France where The Dowager Countess (Maggie Smith) has been left a property by an old flame.
The film’s title may be deceiving, as any hopes of the torch being passed are dashed early on. Julian Fellowes made Downton a global smash with a mixture of comfort, melodrama, and excellent production value. It’s a soap opera with expensive crockery, and this new big screen instalment is no different. Rather than shake things up, the film reunites fans with the characters they have grown to love, and throw in some broadly drawn newbies for a bit of fun. It’s all fine, but unless you’re a superfan it does beg the question as to why this couldn’t have been a two-part Christmas special?
While most of the cast have their moments, Smith once again rises above the crowd as the cutting Dowager. Some moments of mild drama come with Mr Barrow’s (Robert James-Collier) continued grappling with his sexuality, something helped along by his chemistry with West’s leading man (The Wire actor has great fun hamming it up).
Throw in a touch of culture shock comedy with the French storyline, and you have a sequel with very few surprises. Even hardcore fans will have to admit that this is a franchise with more success than ideas.
Downton Abbey: A New Era is in cinemas from 29th April