Downton Abbey Parent Guide
As light and sweet and unsubstantial as an English trifle, this movie will satisfy fans of the TV show who are looking for a nostalgic reunion with their beloved characters.
Parent Movie Review
It’s 1927 and Downton Abbey is about to enjoy a great honor – a visit from King George V and Queen Mary (Simon Jones and Geraldine James). Robert Crawley, Earl of Grantham (Hugh Bonneville) and his American-born wife Cora (Elizabeth McGovern) bring the family together to prepare for the royal visit. And their loyal staff determine to do their best to uphold the Abbey’s finest traditions.
The monarch’s trip to Yorkshire makes for a thin plot, but it provides a good background for the many subplots that swirl through the film. Over the film’s somewhat bloated two hour runtime, audiences will get answers to numerous questions, large and small. Will Lady Mary Talbot (Michelle Dockery) decide to downsize or will she commit to maintaining the Crawley family’s heritage at Downton Abbey? Will Lady Edith’s (Laura Carmichael) gown arrive in time for the ball? Will Tom Branson (Allen Leech), the Irish son-in-law, remain loyal to the family or will his radical republican ideals imperil the visit? Will the Dowager Countess (Maggie Smith) persuade her cousin, Lady Bagshaw (Imelda Staunton) to make Robert Crawley her heir? Will Princess Mary (Kate Phillips) be able to save her faltering marriage? Will the new butler, Thomas Barrow (Robert James-Collier) be able to find a relationship with a gay man without falling afoul of the law? Who is stealing valuable trinkets from the house? How will the staff react when the King’s servants turn up at the Abbey and insist that the Downton staff stay out of their way? And will the Dowager Countess make witty, cutting comments throughout the film?
Frankly, none of the questions leave the audience in suspense for long – if at all. There are, after all, only two questions that matter. First, will fans of the TV show like it? And, second, can the movie be enjoyed by those of us who don’t have years of exposure to the characters? The answer to the first question is definitely in the affirmative. Downton Abbey is a chance for fans to sit back, watch their favorite characters on the big screen, gaze wistfully at the glorious costumes, and laugh out loud at the Dowager Countess’s acerbic one-liners. I brought a long-term fan to the theater with me, and she enjoyed the movie, as did the clapping fans who surrounded us. The second question can also be answered positively. I am not a Downton fan, but I managed to enjoy the film’s two hours of quasi-historical escape with lovely period detail, a relaxing story, and only minor content issues.
Downton Abbey is the cinematic equivalent of an English high tea – a beautifully set table piled high with trifle, crumpets, scones, and finger sandwiches. It isn’t terribly filling, but it looks lovely, tastes delicious, and is a pleasant way to spend a couple of hours, especially if you bring a friend.Directed by Michael Engler. Starring Maggie Smith, Hugh Bonneville, Michelle Dockery, Jim Carter, Robert James-Collier. Running time: 122 minutes. Theatrical release September 20, 2019. Updated September 19, 2019
Watch the trailer for Downton Abbey
Rating & Content Info
Why is Downton Abbey rated PG? Downton Abbey is rated PG by the MPAA for thematic elements, some suggestive material, and language.
Violence: A man is locked into his bedroom. A man gets angry and uses a shovel to damage a boiler. A man raises a gun to shoot someone but is tackled to the ground and the weapon is taken away. Police raid a gay nightclub and round up the men, but no violence is seen.
Sexual Content: There is no explicit sexual content or nudity in this movie. A married couple kiss and embrace. A man and woman kiss. Men embrace each other, kiss one another, and dance together in an underground gay dance club. There is mention of illegitimate children. A character refers to a past adulterous relationship.
Profanity: One term of deity and one mild curse word are heard in the film.
Alcohol / Drug Use: All characters drink alcohol moderately in social situations. A main character gives someone a dose of sleeping medication without his consent.
Page last updated September 19, 2019
Downton Abbey Parents' Guide
Lady Mary is trying to decide if the Crawley family should sell Downton Abbey and move to a smaller, more practical estate that would be easier to maintain. Do you think she makes the right decision? What would you do in her situation?
Daisy is a self-described republican – she doesn’t believe in the monarchy. What do you think of the institution of the monarchy? Do you think the British monarchy serves a useful constitutional function? Do you think the monarchy fills any other roles in British society?
Loved this movie? Try these books…
Hardcore Downton Abbey fans will want to read Downton Abbey – A Celebration: The Official Companion to All Six Seasons. Written by Jessica and Julian Fellowes, it contains scores of photos, accounts of favorite moments, and cast interviews. And if you just can’t get enough of the Dowager Countess, grab a copy of Jessica Fellowes’ The Wit and Wisdom of Downton Abbey.
If you want to know what life was really like for aristocrats and servants during the period covered by the Downton Abbey TV series, you can turn to The Real Life Downton Abbey: How Life Was Really Lived in Stately Homes a Century Ago by Jacky Hyams.
Atonement: A Novel is set just before World War II and was written by Ian McEwan. If you want a complex, thought-provoking plot and an English country house setting, this might well be for you. Note that this is a novel for adults – there is some sexual content and war-related violence.
Fans of period novels who want to read stories set between the wars won’t want to miss Brideshead Revisited. Written by Evelyn Waugh, the novel explores the fading world of aristocratic privilege in the pre-World War II period.
For a comic look at the British aristocracy and their relationship with their servants, you will want to read P.G. Wodehouse’s The World of Jeeves: A Jeeves and Wooster Omnibus. The Most of P.G. Wodehouse also rounds out his brilliant comic writings.
If you want a lighthearted look at the immediate post-World War I period, turn to Carola Dunn’s Daisy Dalrymple series. The eponymous heroine shocks her aristocratic family by deciding to become a writer and earn her own living. But she keeps running across dead bodies….The series begins with Death at Wentwater Court. Anna Lee Huber has also written a murder mystery series set in the immediate post-WWI period. Based around Verity Kent, a widow who worked in England’s secret service during the war, the series begins with This Side of Murder.
If you want to capture the last peaceful English summer before World War I, look for Anne Perry’s No Graves As Yet. Brilliantly evocative and nostalgic, this murder mystery/spy thriller is the first of a five book series and captures the elegiac beauty of that last untroubled season from the perspective of a Cambridge professor.
Related home video titles:
If you enjoy period dramas set in English country houses, you will want to make a cup of tea, grab some scones, and watch Love & Friendship. This atypical Jane Austen adaptation features a manipulative protagonist and plenty of ironic dialogue. For a more typical Austen romance, check out Pride & Prejudice.
If the upstairs/downstairs perspective in Downton Abbey whets your interest, find a copy of The Remains of the Day. This Merchant Ivory production tells the story of a butler and housekeeper working together in an estate in the 1930s.
Gosford Park was also written by Julian Fellowes, who wrote Downton Abbey. This murder mystery features Maggie Smith playing Lady Trentham, a character who is very much like the Dowager Countess.