Downton a B-Minus

Downton Abbey

Starring Dame Maggie Smith, Michelle Dockery and Hugh Bonneville

Rated PG

A continuation of the acclaimed TV series, Downton Abbey is a charming and well-acted historical drama, but it’s light on the drama.

In 1927, a planned royal visit sends the residents and staff of Downton Abbey into a whirlwind of preparation and power struggles.

Downton Abbey has a fun atmosphere of ceremony and bluster, the opulent setting is beautiful and the costuming and period detail feel completely authentic.

The film also has a surprisingly egalitarian tone: the narrative has several heartening moments of respect and collaboration between master and servant, and the Downton servants stage a clever coup to reclaim their responsibilities and dignity from the invasive royal servants.

While the prestigious cast delivers universally strong performances, their characters are thinly-written, making them hard to distinguish or keep track of (exacerbated by some very abrupt editing), and the conflicts feel somewhat toothless and easily-resolved.

The plot shows its cards about a shady agent character far too early, disarming the attempted plot-twist, then clumsily explains the resolution later.

There is a genuinely poignant subplot involving two noblewomen clashing over the inheritance of their family estate and a scandalous secret, but a later revelation robs this issue of all impact.

Downton Abbey is a stylish, pleasant film that will no doubt delight fans of the show, but the characters and conflicts end up rather flat.

– Seth Lukas Hynes