- James Mottram
- 10 September 2019
Satisfying and emotional big screen finale for the beloved ITV series
Four years after the ITV drama's sixth and final season aired, Downton Abbey transfers to the big screen for one last hurrah. Scripted by the show's creator Julian Fellowes and directed by Michael Engler, who was behind some of the key episodes of the series, it serves as both a standalone film and an elegant wrap-up that should leave fans wholly satisfied.
Set in 1927, a year after the series came to an end, the residents of Downton are paid a royal visit, with the arrival, for one night only, of King George V and Queen Mary (Simon Jones and Geraldine James). Cue pandemonium both upstairs and downstairs, particularly as the Crawleys' staff are forced to contend with the snooty royal household, led by David Haig's head butler.
Around this, Fellowes juggles a remarkable array of storylines that give most characters time to shine. Jim Carter's butler Carson returns from semi-retirement to help out, while Maggie Smith's Dowager Countess, Violet, must contend with the arrival of estranged cousin Lady Maud Bagshaw (Imelda Staunton) and her maid Lucy (Tuppence Middleton), who bring with them a chest full of secrets.
If there is the odd character shoehorned in – Henry Talbot's late arrival into the plot means Matthew Goode is rather wasted – Fellowes deserves huge praise for his delicate balancing act. Nor do matters simply chug along ever-so-nicely; along the way, characters face pregnancy, illness and even whether Downton itself can survive – a question pondered by Michelle Dockery's Lady Mary.
Engler allows the dialogue's wit to breathe regular life into the film, so it's not all plot plot plot. Naturally, Smith gets the best lines and relishes delivering each one with her fabulously withering tongue. As sends-offs go, it's both terrifically entertaining and surprisingly emotional.
General release from Fri 13 Sep.