Has your best friend or life partner ever brought you along to an event of their choice? You go with to support them, then find yourself lost in a sea of verbal fog. It's almost a nice blissfulness. Life is happening, but you don't feel like you're hanging on to every single word. Hell, you may even learn a thing or two, especially when it comes to a hobby of the loved one that invited you. Dive into Downton Abbey with no knowledge of the show, and it will feel like one of these events. You won't feel punished for not having done your research. The doors of the titular estate's landmark country house (fictional, of course) are open to you. However, it certainly helps to at least understand the film on some sort of level.
Right away, you'll at least understand that the film (and show) is an observation of the many classes of '20s England (and earlier in the show) found underneath one roof. There are discussions, but nothing is so pressing or urgent that you're shaking in your boots [BRIEF SPOILER] (outside of an early assassination attempt: as an outsider to the show, does this kind of thing happen in the show often?). [END OF SPOILER] Downton Abbey is all about allowing all voices to have a chance at the meeting table. Dinner, tea, and the dance floor are major scenes in this film, likely because Downton Abbey cherishes face-to-face interactions, no matter what your title is.
On that topic, this film's premise consists of very little: the king and queen are on a royal tour, and want to use Downton Abbey as a stop. This sets the film up for a one-off instance that revisits the many character dynamics of the show, while not really changing too much (outside of a few plot threads that I won't spoil here). What I do know about the show, is that the shifting tides of English aristocracy and the working classes often clash against one another, particularly under the umbrellas of historical events. That's no different here, and the film is used as a lens on today's politics as well as it's own era's. In (I suppose) signature Downton Abbey fashion, discussions are held and never yelled.
The film is rendered relatively harmless, but its lack of bite is likely to prevent shifting the legacy of the show in any dire way; at least it doesn't really jump the shark in this way. In return, the film kind of just exists. It's a two hour meet up, with the occasional quibble, one or two jumps, and tons of heart. It's probably incredibly obvious, but this is a feature meant for the fans. There's not enough juice to encourage non-viewers that this has enough merit to stand on it's own two legs, but you won't really feel like you've wasted your time by watching it. It never hurts to partake in a straightforward and wholesome period drama in 2019, either. You've got wits, pomp, and Maggie Smith being her usual joke-smith self. For fans of the show, you've got an additional two hours with some of your favourite characters. Downton Abbey is a safe return and far from a gamble, but dependency may be your cup of tea.
Andreas Babiolakis has a Masters degree in Film and Photography Preservation and Collections management from Ryerson University, as well as a Bachelors degree in Cinema Studies from York University. His favourite times of year are the Criterion Collection flash sales and the annual Toronto International Film Festival.