Downton Abbey: A New Era Is A New Era, Indeed

Hugh Bonneville and Elizabeth McGovern stars as Robert and Cora Grantham and Laura Carmichael as Lady Edith Hexham in DOWNTON ABBEY: A New Era, a Focus Features release. Photo credit: Ben Blackall. © 2022 Focus Features LLC.

Downton Abbey: A New Era takes audiences to a new era as the adventure continues following six seasons and a movie.

Downton Abbey 2: A New Era
Focus Features.

It would not be a Downton Abbey film without adding some twists and turns along the way. However, I will not be spoiling the particulars in question. Longtime fans will be at an advantage but if you’ve only seen the previous film, I think you’ll do just fine. It helps if you watch the YouTube featurette recapping the previous six seasons. That’s what I did going into the first film.

Simon Curtis takes over the directing duties. He’s no stranger to the series as his wife, Elizabeth McGovern, stars as Cora Grantham. Curtis does a solid job behind the camera. Should Julian Fellows and company decide to make a third film, perhaps they should keep Curtis at the helm. There’s a solid mix of comedy and drama and I found myself entertained by the balance.

The film runs about two hours long or about the length of two episodes, starting with the wedding of Tom Branson (Allen Leech) to Miss Lucy Smith (Tuppence Middleton). It’s a great way of introducing the core cast all at once. Throw in the guest cast and well, there’s certainly a lot of people to keep up with. What happens when Lady Grantham (Maggie Smith) reveals that she owns a villa in the South of France? A number of cast members must leave to see what they’ve now come into possession of owning! When they leave France, they have so many questions but only Violet/Lady Grantham can answer them.

Having a film at Downton Abbey is quite the stir for both the upstairs and the downstairs. Robert (Hugh Bonneville) has his own reservations but he leaves the decision to Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery). Mr. Carson (Jim Carter) ends up in France because he is horrified by the filming. A filmmaker, Jack Barber (Hugh Dancy), comes over from British Lion to direct The Gambler. While British Lion is a real company, this particular film is fictional as are its filmmakers and actors, Guy Dexter (Dominic West) and Myrna Dalgleish (Laura Haddock). Still, it’s a fun way of exploring this era of filmmaking. This includes how closeted actors were working during this era. Because of production issues, it takes the entire house to finish the film, including Mary, who stands in for Myrna during recording.

As a cinephile, I love how a main plot of the film deals with filming on location at Downton Abbey. The irony of this is that Downton Abbey is Highclere Castle in real life. It’s a case of art drawing from life because the Castle was in need of repairs prior to the show’s start. The show brought an increase in tourism to the castle. As a result, those repairs basically pay for themselves. Factor in the crew, the film within a film, the combined equipment, and it’s a wonder that they were able to get this made during the pandemic.

I also love that this happens to take place at the same time as the transition from silent films to talking pictures. The Gambler, the film within a film, is quickly converted into a talkie, much like Hitchcock’s Blackmail in 1928. This film shows the full impact that it had on the actors of this era. If you do not have the right voice, your career could be over in an instant. We’ve seen it all before in Singin’ in the Rain but they manage to tie it into film’s plot. The film manages to cover a bit of film history by mentioning that The Terror was the first all-talking film to open across the pond.

DIRECTOR: Simon Curtis
SCREENWRITER: Julian Fellowes
CAST: Hugh Bonneville, Laura Carmichael, Jim Carter, Raquel Cassidy, Brendan Coyle, Michelle Dockery, Kevin Doyle, Joanne Froggatt, Michael Fox, Harry Hadden-Paton, Robert James-Collier, Allen Leech, Phyllis Logan, Elizabeth McGovern, Sophie McShera, Tuppence Middleton, Lesley Nicol, Douglas Reith, Maggie Smith, Imelda Staunton, Penelope Wilton, Hugh Dancy, Laura Haddock, Nathalie Baye, Dominic West, and Jonathan Zaccaï

Focus Features will release Downton Abbey 2: A New Era in theaters on May 20, 2022. Grade: 3.5/5

Please subscribe to Solzy at the Movies on Substack.

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.