The comfort film: Downton Abbey, a new era

Published May 14, 2022, 10:28 AM

by Philip Cu Unjieng

Just as there’s comfort food, we can also say there are ‘comfort films’, and that Downton Abbey: A New Era would certainly qualify as belonging in that sub-category. Besides providing well-calibrated fan service to those who have followed the TV series over its numerous seasons, this Downton film has writer Julian Fellowes making certain every well-loved character from the series is given their respective turn in the film’s spotlight, and that plot twists will keep us glued to the screen, as several story strands bring newfound resolution to the lives of the various characters.

It’s hard not to like, or even love, the Downton film; there’s something old school and nostalgic about its exposition of the Upstairs Downstairs world of England in the 1920’s. Even when it’s being politically incorrect, it does so in such a quaint and relatively inoffensive manner. It’ll be shown at select Ayala cinemas come May 18; and any fan of the series should make a beeline for the theaters. I’m not an avid follower, but Issa (Litton) is, and she was truly charmed by the film.

Two distinct and delightful story strands make up the film’s exposition. One has to do with the fact surfacing that’s there’s a luxurious villa in the South of France that matriarch Violet (Maggie Smith) has inherited from a mysterious Marquis. And so her son Robert (Hugh Bonneville), accompanied by a party of family members, sail off to discover what that’s all about.

Meanwhile, back at Downton, to help make financial ends meet, it’s decided by Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery), to allow a London film crew to shoot a silent film on the premises. Naturally this causes a lot of excitement among the staff, while the members of the family who haven’t made the trip to France are understandably more reserved and concerned about how this can easily turn into a farce and disaster.

I admitted earlier that I’m not one of the Downton faithful; but if there’s one thing I found off-putting with the film, it’s the editing and pacing. It all seems rather hurried and abrupt. Issa confirms that there’s a more languid pace in the series, that allows the characters to breathe and for things to develop organically. Here, it’s like the movie is operating under a stop watch. And I’m curious as to why this happened. It doesn’t detract from the worthiness of the plot development, but it is distracting and diminished the overall effectiveness of the film.

As can be expected, it’s flinty Violet who gets all the best lines, and they’re delivered impeccably by the ever wonderful Maggie Smith. She’ll have you laughing in mirth, then gripped in tears before you’ve even had time to stop chuckling. It’s easy to see why Violet is such a favorite among all the Downton watchers, and why her lines become the stuff of GIF’s, and repeated by others.

There definitely is a room in the world for films such as Downton Abbey: A New Era. It’s reassuring, feels like a warm, comfortable blanket on a chilly night, and knows how to satisfy the most demanding of watchers. Fellowes certainly knows his stuff, and while I’ve avidly followed his novels for decades now, plus the screenplay of such films as Gosford Park; it’s good to see how his talent and ear for dialogue still comes across in a domestic drama such as this. May 18 at select Ayala Cinemas is the movie date many are looking forward to with anticipation.