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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Downton Abbey continues the story of the popular TV series; it has the same characters, creators, tone, and style as the series. Violence and sex are mild -- about as racy as it gets is a hot same-sex kiss after police raid a vintage underground gay bar, and there are no scenes in which beloved characters die or do battle. But themes are still adult: sex, scandal, social position, etc. Downton's nobles still live in rarefied finery, and the royal family even more so; much drama is mined from the potential for social gaffes during a high-profile event and from characters who act in ways not "suitable" for their "place." Characters drink at dinners and parties; no one acts drunk, but in one subplot, a character is given a double dose of a "sleeping draught," which causes no repercussions. Language is limited to a scene in which police officers call gay men "dirty perverts." Themes of teamwork and perseverance are clear from the way both servants and family members pull together for the royal visit, and characters who were formerly cruel to each other are now merely snippy. Hugh Bonneville, Elizabeth McGovern, Michelle Dockery, Maggie Smith, and all of the other familiar Downton faces return for the film.
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What's the story?
Set two years after the series wrapped up, DOWNTON ABBEY finds the Crawley family and their servants in fine form. It's almost a decade after the Great War ended and still a generation before World War II will begin. Lord and Lady Grantham (Hugh Bonneville and Elizabeth McGovern) are enjoying this peaceful period when a letter throws the estate into high tension: King George V (Simon Jones) and Queen Mary (Geraldine James) plan to make a one-night visit to Downton. Now the entire Crawley family -- including Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery), Lady Edith (Laura Carmichael), and Countess Violet (Maggie Smith) -- must pull together to make the visit a success. Downstairs, the servants labor mightily under the direction of Anna (Joanne Froggatt), Carson (Jim Carter), and Thomas Barrow (Robert James-Collier) to do the same.
Is it any good?
Sumptuous and lovely, this film is a fitting capper to the hugely popular series; it will positively thrill longtime fans. All the flowers are in the bouquet. There are tiaras, silver patch boxes, Art Deco beaded dresses, and lots of long, loving shots of vintage motorcars tootling down country lanes cut through rolling green lawns. The servants wear the same uniforms; the nobles swan around in silk and fur; about the only change is that more folks have bobbed hair and the kids are a little bigger. In short, Downton Abbey the film feels pretty much exactly like a two-hour episode of Downton Abbey the TV show, and fans won't mind one bit.
The king and queen's arrival throws Downton into a tizzy, and -- as usual -- there are plenty of upstairs-downstairs subplots thrown in: The servants are ticked off about the high-handedness of the king and queen's staff, a strange figure is prowling around asking suspicious questions about the royal visit, the queen's lady-in-waiting (Imelda Staunton) has a secret that causes complications with an inheritance. In typical Downton style, the chief fallout is a bunch of concerned conversations in ornate drawing rooms; it all melts away as lightly as a feather on a vintage cloche, while the drama gets back to what it really does best: serving up period eye candy and giving the deliciously tart (as always) Smith all the choicest lines. May Downton ever reign.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how similar Downton Abbey the movie is to Downton Abbey the TV series. How is the film's universe expanded? Movies tend to be more expensively made than TV shows. What scenes did you notice that were likely costly to film? How were they more elaborate than scenes from the TV show?
Compare the number of servants in this film to the number of nobles and royals. How many people had to labor for noble/royal characters to live lives of ease? What things did the upper-crust characters have done for them that average people do for themselves?
Talk about Downton Abbey's time period. How were things changing for England and the world when the show first began? How did technology change life for both the upper and servant classes? How did the times change as the show went on, and then during the time period when the movie is set?
How could you find out more about the historical events that Downton refers to or takes part in? How accurate do you think the movie is, from a historical perspective?
- In theaters: September 20, 2019
- On DVD or streaming: December 17, 2019
- Cast: Matthew Goode, Elizabeth McGovern, Michelle Dockery, Maggie Smith
- Director: Michael Engler
- Studio: Focus Features
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: History
- Character strengths: Perseverance, Teamwork
- Run time: 122 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: thematic elements, some suggestive material, and language
- Awards/Honors: Common Sense Selection
- Last updated: October 29, 2020
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