A wealthy family and their servants prepare for a royal visit. As in the show they overcome their differences for a common, yet questionable, cause. The cast, art direction and cinematography are gorgeous and the whole thing feels like a cast party. I had great fun but it didn’t inspire me to go back and catch the 4 seasons I skipped.
I realized afterwards that nearly everyone gets a C plot but there’s no time for a clear protagonist or an A or B plot. I decided to write a spoiler filled analysis of the sub plots, ranked from lowest to highest stakes.
Rich People Problems
Lady Edith’s dress doesn’t fit.
The house has a Parade, a Dinner and a Ball to prepare for. This gives the film a loose three act structure. The highest stakes are at the parade so the rest of the film feels unmoored.
Lady Mary’s husband Henry will miss the celebration, and most of the movie, as he’s sailing back home from America.
Lady Edith’s pregnant and her husband’s been offered a job that will take him away for 3 months.
Daisy’s not certain she’s ready for marriage. She flirts with a plumber and makes her fiancé jealous. The character felt a bit Flanderized here.
Widower Tom Branson (Allen Leech) falls for a maid with a secret.
Princess Mary, a new character, has an emotionally abusive husband. Royal protocol states she cannot leave him.
What about Thomas Barrow? Stay tuned.
Anna captures and blackmails a thief. They briefly state that the rich don’t deserve their wealth. Downton continuously puts these messages in the mouths of its villains.
The servants of Downton overthrow the evil servants of the King by locking them in their rooms like naughty children. For a moment I thought the visiting servants would be dark reflections of their counterparts. A lesson in how the main characters have grown. A more focused film could have developed this theme. This was my least favorite plot of the film but seemed to take up the most screen time. It gives moments to all the servants who didn’t get their own plotlines.
Lady Mary’s tired of running an abbey. But if she sells it everyone will lose their jobs. The audience knows the writing’s on the wall for the Abbey.
Life or Death
Maggie Smith’s Violet Crawley wants to ensure that her wealthy son receives an inheritance from Imelda Staunton’s Cousin Bagshaw. Bradshaw has a quickly deduced secret. This seems low stakes till we learn *** big spoiler *** that Violet hasn’t long to live. Few surprises there, but it gives Maggie Smith a lovely monologue at the end.
Thomas Barrow, the gay butler, went from villain to punching bag over the shows run. Here he gets a plot-line that feels like the highlights of a separate movie spliced in. He goes to a gay bar, gets arrested in a police raid, and is rescued by a high-ranking gay valet. They kiss, then part, with slim hope of a reunion. Tom’s witnessed a love interest commit suicide and has done himself serious self-harm in past seasons. Being put in prison here would have destroyed his life. They could have just had the valet take him on the gay bar date and bring him home, but the police raid brings some stakes to a sluggish second act.
An assassin tries to murder the king. Tom Branson and Lady Mary thwart his plan an hour into the film. A different movie would have saved this plot for the climax. Downton Abbey seems a bit embarrassed by it.
Have you seen the film? Who am I forgetting? Would you rank these subplots differently? If you’ve seen the show, did it give you satisfying closure? If you haven’t seen the show, did the movie make any sense? Would you watch another film about this place in three years?