If you’re an avid fan of PBS’ dramatic series Downton Abbey, you’ll relish this big-screen version. If you aren’t, you’ll probably wonder who these people are and why the audience adores them.
Conceived by Julian Fellowes, the 52-episode TV series spanned a 14 year period from 1912 to 1926, set in the titular 300-room British country house (Highclere Castle) that was magnificently landscaped in the 18th century by Capability Brown.
It’s now a year later in the home of aristocratic Robert Crawley, Earl of Grantham (Hugh Bonneville), his American heiress wife Cora (Elizabeth McGovern), their eldest daughter Mary (Michelle Dockery), her beleaguered sister Edith (Laura Carmichael), and their Irish Republican, widowed brother-in-law Tom Branson (Allen Leech).
The extended Crawley family includes the acerbic Dowager Countess (Maggie Smith) and her equally tart nemesis, Isobel Merton (Penelope Wilton).
They’re tended by a battalion of devoted servants: recently retired Head Butler Carson (Jim Carter), new Head Butler Barrow (Robert James-Collier), Ladies’ Maid Anna (Joanne Froggatt), Valet Bates (Brendan Coyle) Housekeeper Mrs. Hughes (Phyllis Logan), Footman Molesley (Kevin Doyle), Cook Mrs. Patmore (Lesley Nicol) and her assistant Daisy (Sophie McShera), among others.
Everyone’s a-twitter when the Royal Mail arrives, announcing that King George V and Queen Mary (grandparents of Elizabeth II) will arrive for an overnight visit, involving a luncheon, parade and formal dinner.
Traveling with them to Yorkshire are Lord Grantham’s estranged cousin, enigmatic Lady Maud Bagshaw (Imelda Staunton), and her devoted maid, Lucy (Tuppence Middleton), inciting an inheritance battle.
Working with screenwriter Julian Fellowes, director Michael Engler manages to give everyone his/her own mini-crisis and catharsis, involving proper manners and utmost civility, drawing on the trials and tribulations of England’s inherent class system, which exists despite anti-monarchist grumbles.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, Downton Abbey is an elegant, endearing 8, totally satisfying for those who have embraced this charming cast of characters.