Downton Abbey movie review: Julian Fellowes has written the most radical film of the year, if not the decade

WITH his tweed jacket, pressed shirt and neatly knotted tie Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes does not have the appearance of a cinematic rebel.

But there is no doubt he has written the most radical movie of the year, if not the decade.

Because the adaptation of TV phenomena for the big screen has no sex, no nudity, no swearing (unless you include “golly”), no blood, no guts and…no major drama.

This movie puts the lite into polite, the fine into refined and the cent into decent.

Starting off as it means to go on, the opening sequence follows a letter being sent from Buckingham Palace to Downton Abbey, which is the Yorkshire home of the aristocratic Crawley family.

Set in 1927, the royal mail travels on a steam engine, in a perfectly polished van and is finally  placed into the hands of the Earl of Grantham (Hugh Bonneville) by a butler.

Every single person seeing the regal seal on the letter gives either a quizzical or excited look.

Then comes the big reveal – the King and Queen of England are coming to stay at Downton for one night during a tour of the North.

If that prospect doesn’t quicken your pulse, then this film probably isn’t for you because the visit is the main  event.

Fans of the series, which drew in a global audience of 120 million at its peak, will most likely be satisfied with the many, many sub plots springing from the royal arrival.

Every character gets their moment.

There are three romances, the main one involving the much loved widow Tom Branson (Allen Leech) and  a mysterious newcomer played by Tuppence Middleton.

Comedy comes in the form of Dame Maggie Smith’s put downs as the biting Violet and a revolt by Downton’s ‘downstairs’ staff against the snooty royal servants.

And there is a brief moment of action when Branson wrestles a would-be killer to the ground.

The message is resolutely traditional, promoting the idea that the class system is really rather spiffing and we were all much happier knowing our place a hundred years ago.

Loyal maid Anna Bates, played by the excellent Joanne Froggatt, tells Lady Mary Crawley that the grandiose Downton is the “heart of the community.”

The only tip of the top hat to the modern age is a gay kiss shared by butler Thomas Barrow and one of the king’s servants.

It would be easy to criticise Fellowes for turning out what is essentially a two hour long episode.

But it was certainly wise not to send the Crawleys on holiday or to have them saving the world.

If you long to escape explosions, political intrigue or social issues then Downton is the number one cinematic destination this weekend.


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