The transition from television to film can sometimes be a tricky one, whether its in terms of declining quality or failure to get your at-home audience to show up at the theater for a feature-length film. However, 2019’s Downton Abbey film was a massive hit both in terms of financial returns and how it was received from fans and critics alike. It was inevitable that we’d get a sequel, and now nearly three years later it’s here in the heat of the 2022 summer – Downton Abbey: A New Era serves as both a continuation of the series/previous film that has some pretty significant character moments and developments as well as a fun and light-hearted stand-alone story that even the most casual of fans can enjoy.
The film is (mostly) divided into two different sections – one of which follows a majority of the Crawley family going on a vacation to the South of France where Violet (Maggie Smith) has recently inherited a villa with many mysteries attached to it. The other half of the film takes place with some core cast members and a majority of the butlers/dining staff still at Downton as a major motion picture is being filmed on the property. These dueling subplots are both entertaining enough to make this a genuinely engaging and deeply entertaining film, but it also gives it a sense of variety and a bit of a “something for everybody” flavor.
The segments in the South of France serves as a pretty significant development for a majority of the Crawley family members, and it ends up being a pretty effective narrative tool by the end. However, the real joy of this film is what felt designed to be the “B-story” so-to-speak back at Downton with the film crew trying to make a silent film during the era where the industry was transitioning into films with dialogue. On the one hand, it’s deeply entertaining to see the iconic Downton characters get wrapped up into the world of the film industry and try to have proper on-set etiquette; but the film also genuinely feels like a love-letter to the art of filmmaking and this side of the story is so wonderfully entertaining and deeply funny that it stands out amongst the drama on the other half.
It’s hard to find much to complain about in Downton Abbey: A New Era, because by this point if you’re complaining too much about anything, it may just be how you feel about the franchise as a whole – it largely operates as another extended episode but with a unique subplot about filmmaking and the love of cinema. By the end, it intertwines all the subplots in a satisfying way that lives up to the title – both giving somewhat of a closure to past storylines and characters but ushering in a wide-open door for the franchise to go in truly new places in future installments.