The most popular British upper class family is back – and – you will be relieved to learn – Maggie Smith is still with them.
Three years after the first Downtown Abbey film, another sequel to the successful historical drama series that revolves around the lives of the Crawleys, a British aristocratic family, and their staff, is released this spring.
“Downton Abbey: A New Era” is set in 1928, and Dowager Countess Violet – played by the fabulous Smith – who, it was hinted at at the end of the first film, may not have long to live, is still there. Indeed she is very much driving the plot this time as her family learns that the great old lady has inherited a villa in the south of France from a Marquis no one has ever heard of before.
As the Crawleys try to uncover Violet’s secrets – it wouldn’t be the first time that they find out about a mysterious lover from their grandmother’s past – Lady Mary has plans to invite a film crew to Downton to raise cash for the ailing abbey, a plan that naturally doesn’t go down well with her father, Lord Grantham, who has been known from the series’ outset to resist modernity as long as he can.
Fans will be delighted to see the original cast united once again, including Michelle Dockery as Lady Mary, Hugh Bonneville as Lord Grantham, Jim Carter as the Butler Carson, and of course Maggie Smith as the Dowager Countess.
Imelda Staunton, best known for her role as Dolores Umbridge in the Harry Potter films, is also back as Lady Maud Bagshaw, whose daughter Lucy marries the Crawley’s widowed son-in-law Tom Brandson, played by Allen Leech.
Just like the original series, which won 15 Emmy awards, and the first film, “Downton Abbey: A New Era” was created by Julian Fellowes and, after several delays, is released in Britain on April 29, and in the US and Canada on May 20.
As always in a Downton Abbey production, the new film brims with beautiful costume designs and scenery (it was shot at Highclere Castle and its parkland south-west of London).
The setting of the French Riviera, where Violet’s newly acquired villa is located, is equally idyllic, shot near the Mediterranean town of Toulon.
Meanwhile, the family’s future looks anything but idyllic. As suggested by the film’s title, the opulent lifestyle that the Crawleys were used to for decades just isn’t feasible anymore in modern times.
As Carson (once again!) despairs over long-standing traditions being cast aside, Mary and her sister Edith have long turned into modern-day women who know what they want and how to achieve it.
This is hardly a new storyline, however, as the Crawleys have been struggling to keep Downton running at least since season 3 of the series.
Meanwhile, while the new film certainly doesn’t come up with the most original of plot twists, Maggie Smith continues to captivate with her dry mix of humour and malice, and even more frequent emotional moments.
And – let’s be honest – isn’t she one of the main reasons we’ll be heading to theatres to plunge into the Downton Abbey universe once again?