When Lover and I saw that the Downton Abbey movie was playing at the Regal across the street from our hotel, we headed over. We missed the Earl of Grantham saga in the four years which have passed since the final season. We were curious to see how those dear, British characters at the abbey were coming along. We loved that big fortress that the family and help called home. We loved the scenes of the English countryside. Lover, in particular, enjoyed the period cars, and I enjoyed the fashions and hairstyles. It had been such a pleasure to visit that time in history through such an engaging series.
The 1910s and 1920s were around the time that my parents were born. The 20th century was still fresh, and the idea of the class system was being questioned. Though no fans of television, we did find ourselves binge-watching the seasons that Prime offered. And then splurging to buy the seasons not offered on the Prime subscription. The chance to revisit our favorite characters and catch up on their storylines was a real treat.
Two years have passed in Downton Abbey time; the year is 1927. From the outset, we know something important is going to happen because of a letter from London. The monarchs are coming for a visit – they are touring the country’s estates. Everybody – family and staff – are anxious about making sure everything is fit for the royal stopover. It is a beautiful plot development that brings nearly all the former characters together in a common goal. The kitchen staffs’ concerns are about what they will feed the king. The housekeeping staff is put to work, shining the cutlery and putting everything in place. The sisters are more concerned about their gowns and appearances.
Engaging little side stories give nearly all the original characters a chance to shine. When small objects curiously go missing, it is the quick-witted Anna who confronts the guilty culprit and manipulates the situation to the advantage of her mistress. Tom Branson develops feelings for a woman who stands to inherit a sizable fortune. The anti-hero Thomas Barrow finds friendship and the hope for love and acceptance within the underground homosexual community. The royal visit is pulled off, but with a few hitches. Tom Branson shows not only his loyalty to the Crawley family but through his own decency is commended by the king. The Dowager Countess schemes. Daisy’s doubts about her fiancé are assuaged after his display of jealous rage. By the end of the movie, all our beloved characters have hope for a brighter future as they face their difficulties, address their particular issues, and learn more about themselves and the world around them.
We loved the movie, and both agreed that it was nice to catch up on the lives of our old friends because that is how these characters feel. Both Lover and I are impatient when it comes to the daily melodramas that play out in the lives of our family and friends. It’s not that we don’t care, it’s just that it is ongoing, circular, and is seldom if ever resolved. We discussed that this series, as much as we liked it, would fall into that same go-nowhere, repetitive cycle if continued on indefinitely. For our entertainment purposes, we need a clear beginning, believable, lovable, characters whom we grow to care about, a proper setting, plot development, challenges or hardships to be resolved, and a satisfying, optimistic, but convincing resolution. Downton Abbey, the movie, provided this in the two hours three minutes, we sat munching popcorn and slurping an over-sized Diet Coke.
I love movies, and I love to read – I tend to be drawn to character-driven fiction, drama, and literature, while Lover is drawn more to technical writing, documentaries, and research-driven material. So when he is engaged in a series such as this with me, it is particularly enjoyable and gives me insight into his character and our relationship. Seeing his sympathy, for instance, over the plight of Thomas Barrow, an otherwise loathsome character at times, when he is hauled into jail for dancing with another man at an underground nightclub, I realize that he is compassionate even for people who engage in things that he fails to understand. When we nudge each other during the movie and give each other knowing looks, we are thinking along the same lines – Yepper. Look at old Jim Carter coming out of retirement and drawing up his dignity. Yepper. Something is going on between Lady Bagshaw and her maid; she didn’t raise that orphan to be her lover, surely not. And then the shared relief Nope, it was another kind of relationship altogether! Yepper, that Daisy is still a piece of work, not making up her mind about her fiancé, keeping the poor thing on tenterhooks.
We came out of the theater gratified and happy- everything about the movie was lovely – the scenery, the clothes, the cars, the music, but most of all the characters and the story. Our shared experience drew us closer. “That’s the way I am,” he said to me, referring to Henry Talbot’s mad rush up the staircase to reunite with his wife, Mary. “Rushing up the hotel steps at the end of the workday to see the love of my life.” And then when we got back to the hotel, well, we both ran up the stairs anxious to get to our room. Not like in the olden days to fall into bed in a fit of passion, but because there was some tiramisu to top off our evening, and we were anxious to get to it.