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Downton Abbey (The Movie)

Director Michael Engler Starring: Maggie Smith, Hugh Bonneville, Imelda Staunton and many more 142 Minutes Category: PG 2019

Downtown Abbey has been compulsive viewing for its 52 episodes over six series, providing the perfect TV for winding down on Sunday at 9pm. Rumours of a film started soon after the last series finished, and here it is.

It has been given a lush cinematic sheen, with lots of big set-pieces and sweeping shots of Downtown Abbey and its estate. All the ingredients are here from the TV programme; it is great to welcome back some familiar characters and pick up some continuing storylines. The film leaves enough dangling plotlines to make at least another film; I guess that will come if this is a commercial success.

It’s an unashamed nostalgia-fest, which is loved both sides of the Atlantic (I remember a visit to the US I made a few years back when I kept being asked what was coming next; they were a series behind the UK!).

The highlights are the exchanges between the characters played by Maggie Smith and Penelope Wilton; they do have the best comic lines in the film.

The most hilarious scene, which has to be seen to be understood, involves an overwrought Mr Moseley caught like a rabbit in the headlines in the presence of royalty.

The plot of the film surrounds the visit to Downton, in 1927 of the King and Queen of England. With talk of the general strike in 1926 still lingering in the drawing rooms of the privileged, an air of threatening change hangs in the air. The subplot of the whole Downtown story is of the tension between classes, the unrelenting march of modernity, and the challenge of maintaining a sense of identity and purpose.

This is a playful film that flies by very quickly and is full of the feelgood factor that will leave people smiling. What is there not to like about it? It is striking that in all the six series of Downton, the only reference to Christianity was in one wedding. Yet there are many references to homosexuality. In the film there is one brief, tongue in cheek reference to prayer, in relation to having a fine day for the Royal parade. There is by contrast a long section in the film on homosexual experience.

It is almost unthinkable that Christianity did not play a much larger place in the life of a traditional titled family in the first quarter of the 20th century; it is unlikely that homosexuality was such a prominent theme. It all smacks of a revisionist view of history seen through the lens of secularism. This worldview is a challenge to Christians to think clearly about what is true and learn to communicate it clearly.

John Woods is pastor of Lancing Tabernacle in West Sussex.


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