This is a delight for fans of the drama series set in the world of the British aristocracy. Picking up where the sixth season ended, writer Julian Fellowes takes a story idea and compacts an entire season into a 122-minute film, directed by Michael Engler.
The cast of characters returns to the Downton estate even as the Earl of Grantham (Hugh Bonneville) and his family are on tenterhooks preparing for an overnight visit from King George V (Simon Jones) and Queen Mary (Geraldine James).
The characters are aligned to the same relationship status – Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery), who is married to Henry Talbot (Matthew Goode), is being helped by Tom Branson (Allen Leech) to manage the estate. The Dowager Crawley (Maggie Smith) is still as caustic, and assigned some of the best lines while sparring with her best friend, Mrs Merton (Penelope Merton). “I don’t argue, I explain," says Smith, in the way only she can.
While the "upstairs" of Downton Abbey is worrying about gowns, silverware and the ceremonial parade, the "downstairs" is in a tizzy about menus, footmen, liveries, and the enormous honour of serving the monarch. The staff is also divided on the monarchy – some are devoted to it while others question its validity in the 1920s.
Mrs. Patmore (Lesley Nicol) is fussing over the groceries and menu. Mr. Carson (Jim Carter) is trying to the make the most of retirement, until he is called upon to serve in an emergency, and Anna Bates (Joanne Froggatt) continues to be trusted a friend and assistant to Lady Mary.
Among the new entrants is Imelda Staunton as the Queen’s lady-in-waiting, who finds herself drawn into Dowager Crawley’s Machiavellian web.
Not very much happens in Downton Abbey, besides the fuss and bother of hosting the highest-ranked royals in the country and side plots about the heir to a part of the family estate and an assassination attempt. Below stairs, the team rallies around and sidesteps the snooty Palace staff – the King’s butler grandiosely refers to himself as "the King’s page of the backstairs" – to make the best impression they can.
The costumes are impeccable and the banter as free-flowing as the vintage wines. It’s not a film that will make you whoop with joy, but it will leave a smile on your face.
At one point Maggie Smith says to Penelope Merton, “May you have enough cliches to get you through the visit." The only thing we didn’t get enough of is Maggie Smith.