Downton Abbey – Film Review

Isn’t “Entitlement” a fascinating word? The fact of having a right to something. And if you happen to have a title bestowed upon you by royalty, well then welcome to the world of aristocracy, where membership DOES have its privileges.

In the case of the Crawley family who call Downton home, their lives revolve around keeping the joint going. In reality the modest pile belongs to British peer the 8th Earl of Carnarvon and is actually Highclere Castle in Hampshire.

Downton Abbey was an enormously successful TV show spanning 6 series set between 1912 and 1926, by the third series, it had become one of the most widely watched television shows in the world which tells you that despite Brexit, there must be a huge number of Anglophiles around the world. The show is highly decorated laying claim to all manner of awards from the realms of BAFTA, EMMY and Golden Globe.

Although having been urged to watch the show for several years by people whose opinions I value, I never have. (Sorry Mon!)

Wealth isn’t something I’ve ever been comfortable with. Having more than some and less than others, wealth is an elusive thing that none of us can ever seem to have enough of, and frankly a topic I find distasteful.

For the occupants of the famous castle, this seems to be quite the “olde worlde” problem as running a large household is an expensive enterprise. With no background whatsoever on the characters, all I knew going in to the film was wealthy people lived upstairs, their servants down.

(Wasn’t there an older show called Upstairs/Downstairs?! And a quick google reveals that the forerunning program generated a brief feud with Downton as the latter launched a decade ago.) And of course there was Brideshead Revisited….

In Downton Abbey (the movie), The King (George V) and Queen (Mary) are popping in for a visit and this sets a royal cat amongst the pigeons as the Downtoners scramble to make their humble abode presentable enough for royalty.

Upstairs, the nobles fret about wealthy people’s problems, while down in the scullery, the hired help plot to overthrow the royal minions, dreadfully upset that they’ve been denied the chance to serve their King and Queen.

The film is actually extremely charming and I became engrossed rather quickly, I suppose demonstrating the appeal of escapist fantasy, but where I may be familiar with the various caped and spandex-clad superheroes of the contemporary big screen, I had no idea who any of the Downtoners were and couldn’t really tell them apart. Luckily a small child next to me, who also happens to be my daughter helpfully explained whose sister was whose aunt or cousin etc.

The script threw up a few random plot-lines to keep casual viewers entertained, (an attempted assassination of the King! Homosexuality! A Thief! A mysterious potential heir!) while the die-hards in the audience loudly offered their appreciation for the great zingers that their favourite characters delivered. My translator and I had quite a few belly laughs.

I have to say Downton Abbey is “Quite Charming and Rather Splendid”

3 & ½ Stars.

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