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Downton Abbey: A New Era (2022)

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I finished watching the TV run of Downton Abbey seven years ago. I thoroughly enjoyed the 2019 film because it allowed the castle, a character unto itself, to expand and fill a massive screen. I was one of the youngest members of the crowd and I did not care. The 2019 film also features the least climactic assassination attempt I have ever seen. Did we need another film? No, but I was happy to spend more time with these characters that I have spent so much time with.

If you have never seen Downton Abbey there is absolutely no reason for you to watch A New Era. The film brought in the entire cast one more time, except Cousin Rose. Every character is given something to do in this film in its 2:04 run time. That may seem like plenty of time to spend with each character but with a cast list this long it is not. Everyone is given one tiny plot point that is generally disconnected from everything else, and it all adds up to nothing.

The two main storylines, the inheritance of a villa in the south of France and a film being recorded at Downton, do not feel like A New Era. They are the slow progress we have already seen time and time again at Downton. Neither plot line sets up a meaningful exploration of the characters. The most disappointing is Barrow. He has struggled with his sexuality through the series run and had a moment of happiness in the first film before being tossed in jail. Barrow is unaware of how the movie star Guy Dexter feels for most of the film yet chooses to leave Downton for a chance at happiness. It is odd how little Barrow understands what is going on.

This review will come across as critical but as a Downton fan, I enjoyed the film as I was watching it. I had wide eyes and cheered, laughed, and clapped along with the audience throughout the film. As it came to a close and the final few scenes filled the screen I started to notice that I was having an emotional reaction and I explored why in my head. At this point, I started to perceive some of the shortcomings of the film. On the drive home as I pondered more on the film I became increasingly disappointed. I was desperate to spend more time with these characters and enjoyed every minute, but they did not do all that much. Is this a good film or a bad film? I am not sure, but it is made for fans and fans only.

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