“Downton Abbey” (Focus)
By Catholic News Service
Interwar elegance makes a comeback as screenwriter Julian Fellowes takes his popular ITV and PBS television series to the big screen under the direction of Michael Engler.
A 1927 visit to the stately home of the title by King George V (Simon Jones) and Queen Mary (Geraldine James) revives a long-simmering family dispute with a cousin (Imelda Staunton), who is one of the queen’s ladies-in-waiting and who intends to displace the estate’s patriarch (Hugh Bonneville), her closest male relative, as her heir, much to the chagrin of his iron-willed mother (Maggie Smith). The clan’s former chauffer-turned-widowed-son-in-law’s (Allen Leech) Irish Republican sympathies are scrutinized by a mysterious stranger (Stephen Campbell-Moore) while downstairs excitement among the servants (led by Jim Carter and Phyllis Logan) turns to consternation when they discover that the royal family travels with its own staff, all of whom turn out to be insufferably arrogant.
Fellowes keeps his ensemble waltzing in perfect time and the result will be catnip to fans of the franchise. A strong message about marital and familial loyalty and the reconciliation of quarreling spouses is somewhat offset by the sympathetic treatment of a same-sex-attracted butler’s (Robert James-Collier) search for love. But beyond implicitly deploring the harassment to which homosexuals were subjected at the time, the film has no particular axe to grind. Still, though secondary, this subplot makes the glossy costume drama strictly grown-up fare.
A romantically viewed homosexual relationship, scenes in an improvised gay bar, a couple of same-sex kisses. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III — adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG — parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.