Unbearable, melodramatic snobbery

Will Ferris
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Downton Abbey (PG) 122 mins

A lot seems to happen at Downton Abbey, or at least that’s what the popularity of the successful period drama tries to tell us.

After all, it has managed to survive six seasons in its 8pm Sunday night slot – a time where many flick through the endless stream of channels, pensive of their early morning start whilst frustratedly declaring there’s “nothing on!”.

But there are those who pine for Sunday nights, desperate to know of the antics taking place in that fictitious Yorkshire estate.

Throughout its original run, Downton witnessed many historical events, from the First World War to the Jallianwala Bagh massacre and most recently the rise of the NSDAP in Germany, with Hitler’s name moving over the aristocracy like a shadow.

Now writer and producer Julian Fellowes has returned to give the world another dose of Downton’s delights.

Less delight and more bore in the case of this feature-length continuation.

We reunite with the Crawley family in 1927, led by autocrat Thomas, 7th Earl of Grantham (Hugh Bonneville) and his wife Edith (Laura Carmichael) as they receive a letter informing the house and staff that King George V and Queen Mary will be visiting for a pit stop on their tour of the country.

Everyone goes into a state of panic, with the characters frantically preparing for the royal visit.

Here confusion between past and present begins to muddle the structure of the plot, with vanilla coated drama from the last six years sprinting alongside a rather predictable, and entirely fictitious assassination plot against the King.

Those familiar with the series will be glad at the sight of familiar faces like loyal butler Mr. Carson (Jim Carter), maid Phyllis Baxter (Raquel Cassidy) and Lady Mary Talbot (Michelle Dockery).

But the main attraction in this line up is the internationally renowned Dowager Countess Violet Crawley (Dame Maggie Smith), with her relentless sarcasm and quick-witted remarks that manage to make the piece a little more bearable.

There are even surprise appearances from Peaky Blinders star Kate Phillips and, most impressively, Imelda Staunton (Mrs Jim Carter these past 36 years).

But whilst the glamour of Downton continues to captivate fans all over the globe, one cannot deny what a gnawingly painful watch it is.

For a start, it’s a slow burner. Whilst a plot clearly plays out before our eyes, there’s really very little substance to build up any form of invigorating drama or tension. In fact, there are themes and side plots written into the film that have the potential to shake the balance of outdated 20th century politics and yet never quite lift off the ground.

Fellowes has thrown in far too many ingredients and yet the finished product leaves a massive void. A homosexual relationship between two characters that should be a powerful expression of love conquering all never manages to even reach the height that it should, throwing us right back into the middle of a drama infested with privileged lords and ladies, feeding us unbearable, melodramatic snobbery.

Whilst we may be led to believe a lot happens at Downton Abbey, this really isn’t the case. There’s certainly charm, but nothing at stake.

Hardly a huge disappointment and more of a predictably tiring experience with no love lost nor gained.

RATING: 4/10