Reviews of movies and TV focused on women

Downton Abbey: A New Era review

Allen Leech, Harry Hadden-Paton, Tuppence Middleton, and Laura Carmichael in Downton Abbey: A New Era

Downton Abbey: A New Era has so many things happening, and so many happy endings, that you don’t notice that the 2022 spinoff from the popular TV series is over two hours long. The time is bursting with a big cast, lots of changes, and the continued emphasis on the continuity of family brought up in the previous film, Downton Abbey.

Downton Abbey: A New Era begins with the wedding of Tom Branson (Allen Leech) and Lucy Branson (Tuppence Middleton). It ends several months later with them arriving at Downton Abbey with a new baby.

In between, a film crew uses the Grantham estate to make a movie (money for the roof, at last). Violet Grantham (Maggie Smith) gets her affairs in order and leaves a villa in France no one knew about to Tom Branson’s daughter. The family travels to France to check it out.

The Movie Making

Maggie Smith and Penelope Wilton in Downton Abbey: A New Era
Lady Grantham is sure she’d rather eat rocks than be in a movie

These two storylines bring in some new faces. The movie director is Jack Barber (Hugh Dancy). He starts by directing a silent film and ends up making a talkie. A new era begins in filmmaking as well.

Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery) is in charge of the place during the filming. When the change to sound happens, Lady Mary is put in place recording the voice of the beautiful lead actress Myrna (Laura Haddock). Beautiful, but with a Cockney accent. Alas!

Guy (Dominic West) plays the leading man. He and the butler Thomas Barrow (Robert James-Collier) manage to get along very well. This was one of the story arcs that lead to a happy ending.

The number of inside jokes about acting and movies made during this part of the story were very funny and clever.

The French Villa

Back when Violet Grantham was a tender young thing, a Frenchman fell in love with her. He gave her a villa. After she’d gone back to England, he married someone else and had a family. But he insisted on keeping that particular home in her name.

The Frenchman’s wife (Nathalie Baye) was jealous and resentful about a Grantham getting the house. Her son (Jonathan Zaccaï) insisted his father’s wishes be carried out. A whole battalion of the family went to France to see the place and befriend the French family. Robert Grantham (Hugh Bonneville) was surprised to learn that he was suspected to being the half-brother of the Frenchman’s son.

Lady Violet had to spend some of her last days defending her honor and assuring Lord Grantham he wasn’t a Frenchman’s bastard son.

The Happy Endings

I suspect the number of happy endings tying up the multitude of storylines in this sprawling tale is a hint that this film may be the last of its kind.

In addition to Thomas Barrow’s news, there was a happy ending for Lord and Lady Grantham (Elizabeth McGovern) when she became ill.

Mr Molesley (Kevin Doyle) had not one but two wonderful things happen for him.

Lesley Nicol and Sophie McShera in Downton Abbey: A New Era

Mrs Patmore (Lesley Nicol) and Daisy (Sophie McShera) had big changes in their situations that were good news.

A New Era

Hugh Bonneville and Michelle Dockery in Downton Abbey: A New Era
The generations keep advancing

This story was set in the 1930s. The oldest generation was passing, but newer generations kept coming along at a steady pace. The story moved to the younger generations as the world spun toward another world war.

Lady Edith (Laura Carmichael) went back to work, becoming an example of a modern woman balancing home and career.

Overall the film was heartwarming, funny, and a fine finish to the Downton Abbey legacy as great television. It’s available on Prime Video now as part of your subscription.

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