The movie version of the hit PBS TV series Downtown Abbey makes for fun watching, writes Monday film reviewer Robert Moyes. JAAP BUITENDIJK/FOCUS FEATURES

FILM REVIEW: Downton Abbey series an endless banquet; film version is a sumptuous brunch

Royal visit with the Crawleys, Mr. Carson, Mrs. Patmore and others proves amusing: Robert Moyes

The PBS channel – a.k.a. Principally British Shows in some circles – hit the jackpot with Downton Abbey, which for six seasons ruled the TV realm with a stately aplomb that Game of Thrones can only dream of.

This wonderfully acted and emotionally rich soap opera chronicled the complicated lives of the Crawley family amidst their sprawling country estate full of servants; the backdrop was equally rich, as England staggered through the Great War and then struggled with great social change during the turbulent 1920s. And one of the best qualities of Downton was how the lives of the servants “below stairs” were taken just as seriously – and given just as much screen time – as the lords and ladies swanning about in the plushly appointed rooms above.

And now, millions of bereft fans are invited back for another visit via the long-anticipated Downton film adaptation. The Emmy-winning series, with its 52 episodes, was an elaborate, seemingly endless banquet; the two-hour movie is, of necessity, just a quick brunch. But it’s a tasty repast nonetheless, full of pomp, circumstance, nostalgia, gossip … and the deliciously barbed wit of Maggie Smith’s immortally acidic Dowager Countess.

The plot involves an overnight visit by King George V and Queen Mary, an honour that throws the household into an uproar. Much of the conflict – and comedy – involves the royal retinue, a prideful crew including a pretentious French chef, an imperious butler with a pompous title, and numerous valets, footmen and serving staff. They are always brought along to cater to the royals when travelling, and in their arrogance think nothing of sidelining the entire Downton staff.

But you patronize a champion butler like Carson at your peril and the spirited response of the likes of Mrs. Patmore, Daisy and Anna provides considerable light-hearted amusement.

All the familiar Downton tropes, from the stately music to the fraught family politics, are here woven together with a skillful touch. And the considerable moments of comedy reach an apogee when that sublimely awkward ditherer, Mr. Molesley, has an unexpected moment with the King he adores.

Although the movie just skips along on the surface of things, and won’t mean much to non-initiates, Downton’s many devotees will cherish this opportunity to spend more time in the company of all these old friends.

Rating: ***

Stars Maggie Smith, Hugh Bonneville, Michelle Dockery

Directed by Michael Engler

Joaquin Phoenix portrays Batman’s arch-villain in Joker, on now at local theatres.


The Irishman

Few films are as anticipated as the latest mob epic by Martin Scorsese, which portrays the life of the hitman who is suspected in the disappearance of Jimmy Hoffa. With Robert De Niro, Al Pacino and Joe Pesci.


In a comic-book movie like no other, Joaquin Phoenix stars in a disturbing and deeply psychological origin story about Batman’s arch-nemesis.

Gemini Man

The ever-unpredictable Ang Lee (Hulk, Brokeback Mountain) directs this sci-fi epic about a retiring assassin who ends up battling a young clone of himself. With Will Smith and Clive Owen.

Zombieland: Double Tap

The original Zombieland was a brilliant mix of zombie gore and crazy comedy, and this sequel reunites original stars Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg and Emma Stone for what we can only hope is loads more of the same. Happy Halloween!

The Lighthouse

Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson star in a black-and-white horror film about two lighthouse keepers who are slowly going insane.

Film ReviewsRobert Moyes

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

An untitled Emily Carr painting of Finlayson Point was donated to the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria by brothers Ian and Andrew Burchett. The painting had been in their family for several decades. (Courtesy of the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria)
Newly public Emily Carr painting depicts well-known Victoria view

Painting among several donated to Art Gallery of Greater Victoria

Jen Hodge conducts an online concert during the pandemic after returning to B.C. from New York City. Photo courtesy Claudia Nobauer
Canada Recovery Benefit won’t replace the magic of live performance, musicians say

Cash will help, but its the audience connection that most performers miss — and crave

Mary Fox’s new book My Life as a Potter is available at bookstores nationwide. (Cole Schisler photo)
My Life as a Potter raises funds for Mary Fox Legacy Project

Acclaimed Vancouver Island potter’s story raising money for developing artists

Premier John Horgan and Rob Douglas, BC NDP candidate for Cowichan Valley, meet with Cowichan First Nation elders, as they demonstrate spearfishing along the river. (Submitted)
Horgan acknowledges A&E sector hit hard by COVID-19, but showing signs of recovery

Hollywood North doing better than Hollywood South, Horgan says

The iconic and well-loved live music venue Logan’s is permanently closing its doors due to impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. (Google Maps)
Victoria pub Logan’s permanently closing its doors

Live music venue unable to weather COVID-19 storm

A group gathers for a guided story walk at the Comox Valley Art Gallery plaza. Scott Stanfield photo
Comox Valley arts-based project takes honest look at overdose crisis

Walking tour aimed and raising awareness and sparking change

Nanaimo bluesman David Gogo releases his new single, Christine, on Oct. 30. (Photo courtesy Andrew Dodd)
Island bluesman David Gogo evokes return to good times with new single

Upcoming release ‘Christine’ among a dozen new songs written during pandemic

Online reservation service, First Table, allows Victoria diners to have dinner at half-price if they’re willing to be flexible about when they go. (Black Press Media file photo)
New reservation service allows Victoria residents to dine out at half price

First Table gives Victoria diners 50 per cent off when they book tables during off-peak hours

Elizabeth and Marcel Bergmann will play the same piano at the Port Theatre on Nov. 1. (Photo courtesy Best Days Ever Photography)
Piano duo perform on one piano in Nanaimo return to live performance

Marcel and Elizabeth Bergmann present first live, in-person concert since March

Leaking Time by Oak Bay resident Ilka Bauer is the winning entry of the Federation of Canadian Artist’s “Crisis” exhibition on now in Vancouver. (Ilka Bauer Image)
Oak Bay artist wins juried show in Vancouver

Pair of Oak Bay artists part of ‘Crisis’ exhibition

Can you spot all 12 Days of Christmas displays at the Butchart Gardens? Jen Blyth photo.
The magic of Christmas returns to the Butchart Gardens

Some events cancelled due to COVID-10 but 12 Days of Christmas will brighten the season

Gatineau artist Michèle Provost visits the Malaspina Galleries during her artist residency on Gabriola Island. (Photo supplied)
Gatineau artist the first to take part in new Gabriola Island artist residency

Michèle Provost to create art book reflecting on the positives of aging

Most Read