Directed by Simon Curtis (Goodbye Christopher Robin; Woman in Gold; My Week with Marilyn) and starring Hugh Bonneville (Downton Abbey; Notting Hill; Paddington; Viceroy's House), Elizabeth McGovern (Downton Abbey; Ragtime; Clash of the Titans; Woman in Gold), Michelle Dockery (Downton Abbey; The Gentlemen; Anna Karenina; Non-Stop), Maggie Smith (Downton Abbey; The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie; California Suite; Gosford Park), Joanne Froggatt (Downton Abbey; Mary Shelley; U Want Me 2 Kill Him?; Angela Black (TV Series)), Phyllis Logan (Downton Abbey; Misbehaviour; The Good Karma Hospital (TV Series)) and Robert James-Collier (Downton Abbey; The Ritual; The Fight; Fate: The Winx Saga (TV Series)).

Period drama; 125 mins; 6+

Downton Abbey: A New Era picks up where the 2019 film A Downton Abbey (itself based on the highly successful tv series that ran from 2010 - 2016) leaves off, around 1927 - 1929. All (or almost all) the favourite characters - from both the extended aristocratic Crawley family and those who work for them - are back for another throwback to another time and another world. 

Audiences have had an affinity with the characters, both upstairs and downstairs, with most of them having seemingly settled into happiness and contentment, having found their place in their world. So what could the writer, Julian Fellowes, come up with for their second big screen outing? In first first time out on the big screen, a royal visit was the main storyline, so what could top that this time out?

There are two main story-lines, the first being that the matriarch of the family, Violet Crawley (Maggie Smith), learnt that she was left a villa in the South of France in the will of someone she knew a long time ago. So off trot Robert Crawley (Hugh Bonneville) and his wife Cora Crawley (Elizabeth McGovern), as well as other members of the family and servants. However, no matter who the writer is, it would be impossible to transport EVERYONE to the south of France. 

So Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery) if left in charge (she already runs the place / "wears the trousers" as they used to say"), along with the help of the head housekeeper, Mrs. Hughes (Phyllis Logan), her lady's maid Anna Bates (Joanne Froggatt) and others, including Thomas Barrow (Robert James-Collier) who by now is not as bad as everyone thought he was now he is accepted for who he is. 

Much to the horror of Violet Crawley, a film production company contacted the Crawleys to ask if they could film inside Downton Abbey; once she realised that the rather large fee being offered could help pay to replace the roof which had come into quite serious disrepair, it started to proceed. While some were in awe of "film stars" coming literally to their doorstep, others were more reserved, with some hidden talents coming to the fore. It was exactly the time that silent films were on the way out and "talkies" were starting to take over, so the director and production team had to adjust and evolve with the times, with technology and with themselves.

Meanwhile, in the South of France, Violet's past surfaces: some questions about the will and the legacy were cleared up, other issues came to the fore. Meanwhile, other sub-plots intertwined in and out of everything else.

Apart from the magnificent exteriors of the stately homes, both in England and in the South of France, the interiors are a sight to behold themselves in the background of the shots, let alone the drama that is unfolding in the foreground. The costumes, like in the tv series and the 2019 film, remain exquisite. But it is the evolution of the new era, the embracing of new technology and carving out new niches, with young and old family members having different viewpoints and perspectives, that is the most compelling undercurrent of the film. 

While almost all characters have previously been developed, there are a couple of new characters involved this time round, for variety, and some of the existing characters get the opportunity to either explore new territory or expand on their roles a bit more. Either way, whether the audience has been with the Crawley family from the outset, or are meeting them for the first time, this period romp is a delight. The music score retains its stamp from the tv series; we would not have it any other way.

Currently screening in Luxembourg at Kinepolis and Ciné Utopia.