'Downton Abbey: A New Era' review: Nothing new under the estate
Don't get caught up in that 'New Era' verbage; '2 Downton 2 Abbey' it's not. And that's just fine.
It's a new era but it's more of the same with "Downton Abbey: A New Era," a comfortably familiar continuation of the stately series and a sequel to the 2019 film.
That new era isn't all that new; we're talking 1928 here, not 1982. Silent movies are just starting to give way to talkies, and the Downton gang is thrown into the middle of this Hollywood upheaval as a production crew is using the English countryside estate as the setting for a new movie.
But wait, there's more! In a parallel plot, Violet Crawley (Maggie Smith) has unexpectedly inherited a villa in the south of France from a man she once knew, and her son Robert (Hugh Bonneville) leads a crew (including Elizabeth McGovern's Countess, Laura Carmichael's Lady Eith, Allen Leech's Tom, Tuppence Middleton's Lucy and Jim Carter's Charles Carson) to go check out the digs and find out why it was left to Violet. Jump in, everybody, it's a "Downton Abbey" road trip!
Director Simon Curtis, working from a script by "Downton Abbey" creator Julian Fellowes, toggles nimbly between the two plot threads. Each carry their own baggage and larger ramifications — with the estate, questions loom over whether the owner was Violet's long lost lover, and what that might mean for the paternity of Robert — but neither feel like peak episodes of the series. These are B-grade storylines, with B-grade execution.
For fans, that's likely enough. "A New Era" isn't going to win over any new converts, but it will give existing obsessives of the series that feeling of warmth that the show gave them over its six-season run. It's full of polite British humor, light class commentary and opulent shots of Downton Abbey itself, which is shot here from every angle in every light. It's a vacation, an escape, and that is welcome in any era — especially this one.
'Downton Abbey: A New Era'
Rated PG: for some suggestive references, language and thematic elements
Running time: 125 minutes