Downton Abbey review – mostly harmless TV spin-off

Familiar comforts abound in a big screen outing for the Crawleys and staff

There is something faintly Hogwartian about the opening scene of Downton Abbey, which follows a hand-stamped letter’s journey via steam train from Buckingham Palace to ITV’s most beloved Yorkshire manor. Movie spin-offs of TV shows are almost never a good idea and this is no exception, the film’s narrative rhythm structured in bite-size episodic beats.

The budget seems bigger, the costumes flashier and the swooping overhead shots of the Crawley mansion appropriately cinematic, but, truth be told, there’s little to suggest that this has been designed for the big screen rather than as an extended television special.

The hugely popular series ran for six seasons from 2010 to 2015, offering an exportable social history of Britain between 1912 and 1926. Those who followed will likely enjoy being reunited with Maggie Smith’s withering asides, impish scullery maid Daisy Mason’s (Sophie McShera) anodyne flirtations with a sexy plumber (James Cartwright), and a juicy bone thrown in the direction of Robert James-Collier’s gay footman Thomas Barrow. Those who didn’t will find it easy enough to keep up with the plot, which centres on a visit from George V (Simon Jones) and Queen Mary (Geraldine James).

Still, it’s lighthearted stuff and mostly benign too, save its unashamedly effusive stance on the monarchy.

Watch a trailer for Downton Abbey.


Simran Hans

The GuardianTramp

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