Downton Abbey movie review: Lack of depth notwithstanding, this film makes for wholesome comfort food cinema

Downton Abbey is able to throw away all the avante garde-ness if given a chocolate box of a film, regardless of the trashy delights it ultimately provides.

Mihir Fadnavis October 18, 2019 15:00:52 IST

3.5/5

Talk about a pleasant surprise. The Downton Abbey film presents the greatest hits of the series into one swift and delightful little package, offering ultimate fan service to those who love the show, and also a welcoming window to newcomers intrigued by it. If you are looking to chuck your cynicism, and relish the simple feel-goodness of a film, this is the one to watch this weekend. 

Downton Abbey movie review Lack of depth notwithstanding this film makes for wholesome comfort food cinema

A still from Downton Abbey. YouTube

We are back in the 1920s England, when King George (Simon Jones) and Queen Mary (Geraldine James) pay a visit, thereby forcing Carson (Jim Carter) to give retirement a miss, causing a collision between Maud (Imelda Staunton), Lucy (Tuppence Middleton), Robert (Hugh Bonneville), and matriarch Violet (Maggie Smith). Of course, things get more complicated when the workers stage a revolt, and the film becomes a stew teeming with bubbling upper class Brits and their trademark snoot. 

If you have followed the Downton Abbey series, you will slip into the film with the ease of a night gown – the formula remains perfectly intact, complete with the glossy lighting and the razor sharp dialogue you have come to know and love. There are more subplots that one can keep track of, but they are all weaved skillfully enough to keep you entertained. The commentary of the divide between the elite and the working class is not very potent but the attempts are definitely noteworthy. It is all highbrow enough to balance the marvelous costumes and showy sets. In an era of increasingly bitter, uncouth dictators running the show, it is fun to see an idealised version of who should be in charge, and why. 

On the downside, there is little depth in the film. It neither has a reason to exist nor makes any strong case for a repeat watch – much like El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie from last week. It is fine as long as you expect a breezy ride, this is a good enough watch, but the moment you begin to peel away the layers, you will realise this emperor of a film has very little clothes. It is a good thing we have an incredibly charismatic cast to help distract ourselves from the superfluous holes. After all, Downton Abbey has been just that – a show meant to gaze at, like a magazine cover with impeccably made models. Director Michael Engler makes it very obvious he is not trying to pull some huge creative risk. He is here to charm your pants off with the actors, and he succeeds in doing that repeatedly. Mind you, he is not even trying to convert non-fans into fans – the whole film simply feels like an amiable and warm hug, and a peek into why a pop culture element became such a phenomenon.

Comfort food cinema, like this one, may not bring much artistic value, but it sure as hell warms the cockles of your hearts if you give it a chance. One could claim to be a connoisseur of avante garde genres, but Downton Abbey is just another example of one being able to throw away all the avante garde-ness if given a chocolate box of a film, regardless of the trashy delights it ultimately provides.

Rating: ***1/2

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