It’s an odd thing to follow up a TV series with a movie feature. It’s an even more odd to have a sequel to said feature. It’s easy to see why Focus Features decided to do a sequel: the first film, which was released in 2019 and named simply Downton Abbey, is their most successful movie they’ve ever had. But it also makes a die hard Downton-ite such as myself wonder why they would do it with the previous outing being so lackluster? 

Obviously I’m in the minority of finding the first film to be wanting as it sits at a respectable 84% critics’ score on Rotten Tomatoes and has a 7.4/10 on IMDb. I just found it to be so tonally deviant from the series that it felt like I was eating a meal at the downstairs table, with no real emotional impact or character arcs and scattered with out-of-place jokes. 

This next installment, Downton Abbey: A New Era takes place shortly after the first, with Tom Branson (Allen Leech) marrying his newfound love (Tuppance Middleton) and everyone is over the moon for the affair. However, there are plot wrenches to be thrown into the mix with Lady Violet Crawley (Dame Maggie Smith) informing her family that she has come into possession of a villa in the south of France. Meanwhile Mary (Michelle Dockery) and her father, Robert (Hugh Bonneville), are informed that a film crew would love to use their home as the location for a new silent motion picture and are going to be paid rather handsomely for their troubles. 

These two plot lines take the rest of the cast in different directions (some literally as many travel to the new villa) yet still keep the major theme of the series alive: change is inevitable and you either adapt or get left behind. The scenes at the Abbey focus more on changing times, whereas the trip to France seems to focus on timeless personal changes that come with our aging bodies and their consequences to ourselves and those around us. 

Now let’s get to the point: this movie is not as moving or well written as the series was. Many of the characters are, for the most part, caricatures of their former selves. Julian Fellowes seems to think that there are different rules for writing a feature versus serialized television, even if the former is a continuation of the latter. However, he does seem to strike a better balance with this go round than he attempted in the first film. The comedy is VERY funny and the obvious nods to classic Hollywood films are greatly appreciated, with Violet’s zinger-per-minute record likely being broken. It also ends very well and quite movingly with some wonderful payoffs for long time fans of the series.


I ultimately enjoyed myself with this outing and actually wouldn’t mind seeing it again, but mostly for the comedy bits rather than any fine storytelling. There is much to like about and it certainly exceeded my expectations.