Downton Abbey: A New Era Movie Review

When Downton Abbey premiered more than a decade ago, it looked to be nothing more than your run-of-the-mill BPD (British Period Drama). Who knew that it would become a worldwide cultural phenomenon that still enthralls audiences?

Downton Abbey: A New Era hit theaters a few weeks ago. The film starts with the wedding of Tom Branson (Allen Leech) and Lucy Smith (Tuppence Middleton). After the ceremony, the Dowager Countess (Maggie Smith) announces that she has inherited a previously unknown villa in the south of France. While Robert (Hugh Bonneville), Cora (Elizabeth McGovern), and most of the family travel to see this newest acquisition, Mary (Michelle Dockery) stays behind.

With the roof leaking, she has accepted an offer from a Director to use the Abbey as a film set. Jack Barber (Hugh Dancy) brings the glamour of Hollywood along with his lead actors: Guy Dexter (Dominic West) and Myrna Dalgleish (Laura Haddock).

The best word to describe the experience of watching this film is meta. This movie was made with so much love that it pours out of the screen. Julian Fellows brilliantly balances both the instinctive narrative and the wants of the audience. It’s not an easy task, given the expectations of the fanbase.

I’ve been a fan of the show since the first episode. I was not disappointed. It was everything I wanted and more.

My only qualm is that a little over 2 hours, it is just a tad long. However, Fellows gets a pass, given the number of storylines he has to balance.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

Downton Abbey: A New Era is presently in theaters.


Throwback Thursday: Aristocrats (1999)

When we think of members of the British aristocracy. The pageantry, the press, the fancy clothes, the titles, etc. But, the question is, do we really know them or do we think we know them?

The 1999 six-part miniseries, Aristocrats, followed the lives of four sisters who have been born into the highest levels of 18th-century British life. Caroline (Serena Gordon), Emily (Geraldine Sommerville), Louisa (Anne-Marie Duff), and Sarah (Jodhi May), are the daughters of 3rd Duke and Duchess of Richmond (a pre-Downton Abbey Julian Fellows and Katherine Wogan). The series follows these sisters as they grow from girls to women and deal with what life has thrown at them.

I enjoyed this series. What I think made it interesting was that even though the main characters come from a certain stratum of society and live in a way that is specific to both their era and class, they are human. Each woman in her own right is full of life, love, contradictions, missteps, etc.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

The English Game Review

One of the major conflicts over the course of human history is between the working class and the ruling and/or wealthy class.

The English Game premiered on Netflix earlier this year. Written by Julian Fellows (Downton Abbey), this six part series tells the story of how football (soccer for us Americans) became the sport it is today. In 1879 England, football is a game played by amateurs. The teams are made up of members of the upper class who are well, overprotective, of the game.

When they are confronted with other teams who come from the working class, the conflict becomes more than football. It represents the idea that the traditional social hierarchy is changing. Those who were born on the lower end of the hierarchy are no longer content to remain where they are. They want a piece of the action, so to speak, and are more than willing to fight for their rights.

Representing the upper classes is Arthur Kinnaird (Edward Holcroft). Standing up for the working men and women is Fergus Suter (Kevin Guthrie).

I enjoyed watching the series. Though it is a BPD (British Period Drama), the narrative is not the standard BPD narrative. It tells the story of a time in which the world was changing and the forces it took to create that change.

I recommend it.

The English Game is available for streaming on Netflix.

The Chaperone Movie Review

The opportunity to travel offers more than what it appears to be. It is more than the place one goes to, it is the emotional experience and the growth that comes with travel.

The 2018 movie, The Chaperone, is based on the book of the same name by Laura Moriarty. At the age of fifteen, future silent screen star Louise Brooks (Haley Lu Richardson) is given the opportunity to study dance at a prestigious school in New York City. But a fifteen year old girl cannot travel alone, especially in 1922. Norma (Elizabeth McGovern) is there to make sure that Louise stays out of trouble.

But Norma has her own reasons for leaving Kansas and her family behind. Can she find the answers she is looking for and will Louise become the star that she dreams of becoming?

Penned by Downton Abbey scribe Julian Fellows, this movie is interesting. I appreciated the parallel character arcs of the lead characters. Though their end goals are different, their individual journeys are remarkably similar. I also appreciated the relationships with the men around them are secondary to the relationship between Norma and Louise.

However, compared to Downton Abbey, this movie is kind of meh. Though I have not read the book yet, I did not have the chill up my spine that I had with Downton.

Do I recommend it? Maybe.

The Chaperone is available for streaming on Masterpiece.

Thoughts On the full trailer for the Downton Abbey Movie

A good movie trailer is essentially a tease of the full movie. It gives enough away to tempt the audience to pay to see the movie, but it doesn’t (well hopefully it doesn’t) give away too much of the narrative.

The full trailer for the Downton Abbey movie was released earlier today.

Based on the uber-successful BPD Masterpiece television program of the same name created and written by Julian Fellows, the movie starts in 1927, a year after the series ended. King George V and Queen Mary will soon be visiting Downton, causing all sorts of commotion. I also fully expect there to be plenty of personal drama between the characters while the household is preparing for their royal visitors.

I am definitely looking forward to seeing this movie.

P.S. Whoever decided to end the trailer with a delicious verbal duel between Isobel (Penelope Wilton) and Violet (Maggie Smith) is a genius.

To Marry an English Lord Book Review

Marriage, for many generations, was not about love, commitment and compatibility. It was about class, money and social standing.

In 1776, America broke away from England and became a free nation in her own right. About 100 years later, young American heiresses would reverse that trend by going back across the pond and saying I do to male members of the English aristocracy that had the title and the land, but not necessary the fortune to keep both going.

In 1989, writers Gail MacColl and Carol McD Wallace wrote To Marry an English Lord, a book about these young women who chose spouses from among England’s elite. Starting with the Gilded Age and ending with 1914, the book traces the stories of these girls. Compiling images, facts and press clippings from the era, the writers take the reader back to a time when marriage was more about duty and fortune than love and commitment.

My initial desire to read this book started with the fact that I am huge Downton Abbey fan and that Julian Fellows was inspired by the stories of these girls. What kept me reading was that despite the fact that these girls had no rights and were being used as cash cows by their husbands, was that they were able to forge new lives and thrive in a country that was not their own, at least by birth.

The most fascinating aspect of this book was how many members of the upper class have American blood in them. Winston Churchill’s mother was American as was the paternal great-grandmother of the late Princess Diana.

I recommend it.

Downton Abbey Series 6, Episode 7 Recap: Mary the B*****, Thomas Attempts Suicide & Mrs. Patmore Has A Scandal On Her Hands

As usual, this recap contains spoilers, read at your own risk if you have not seen the episode.

In honor of beginning and endings (and the final episode airing on March 6th), I’m going to try a new format for my recap. Here I go.

After 6 seasons and countless fights, Mary get’s what is coming to her. Fueled by her own fears that a potential marriage to Henry Talbot will have the same results of her first marriage, Mary is in rare form, biting and sniping at the people around her. No more so, than at Edith who announces her engagement to Bertie, who is no longer an ordinary land agent, but Lord Hexum. Should Edith marry Bertie, she would outrank the rest of her family.

As anyone who has siblings can attest, no one knows you better than your brother or sister. Especially when it comes to pushing buttons. If any pair of siblings can push each other’s buttons, it’s Edith and Mary.  That leads to Mary outing Marigold as her niece and Bertie walking away, naturally feeling hurt. Not that I blame him.

I could talk about the fight between the surviving Crawley sisters, but it’s so much more fun to watch.

After they both calm down and Mary is finally gotten through by Tom and her grandmother, Edith returns in time for her sister’s wedding to Henry. While these sisters will never truly be lovey dovey with each other, they understand that one day, their world will change and everyone around them will be just a memory.

Downstairs had its own set of drama.

After being beaten down emotionally one too many times by Carson and feeling disheartened by his lack of progress in finding new employment, Thomas attempts to take his own life. But he is saved in the nick of time by Baxter, who despite the abuse that Thomas heaped upon her in the past, has become his champion. She’s a better woman than many of us would be in that situation.

After Mrs. Patmore’s bed and breakfast was revealed as the love nest of the not so Mr. and Mrs., a minor scandal erupts. The only way to make the scandal go away, is a visit from the Crawley’s to return respectability and propriety to Mrs. P. and her future as an entrepreneur.

Thankfully, the entire episode was not all drama. Molesley’s teaching career seems to going well and all is quiet on the pregnancy front with Anna and Bates.

Did anyone else laugh as loud as I did when Spratt was revealed as the writer of the advise column by “Miss Cassandra Jones”? Bravo, Julian Fellows, for giving us a moment of true comedy in all of the super heavy drama.

My favorite scenes in this episode, belong to Isobel. The first scene is between her and Lord Merton, who seems honestly surprised about the invitation to his son’s wedding. My other favorite scene was between Mary and Isobel at Matthew’s grave. Feeling super remorseful for her actions, Mary is surprised by Isobel at the cemetery. The two women have a moment together and that is all Mary needs to move on with her life.

Next Sunday is another Alistair Bruce special and then after that, the final episode begins.

I think I had better start stocking up on the Kleenex now.

Downton Abbey Series 6 Episode 7 Recap: A Day At The Races, Relationship Rollercoasters & Mr. Carson Learns To Appreciate His Wife

As usual, this recap contains spoilers. Read at your own risk if you have not seen the episode.


  • Robert (Hugh Bonneville) is no longer the invalid and is eager to return to his every day life. But Cora (Elizabeth McGovern) would prefer her husband to take baby steps.
  • Still smarting from the hospital issue (which thankfully appears to be finally resolved), Violet (Dame Maggie) is planning to go to the continent for a month. But before she leaves, thorough as she ever is, she leaves her mark. First, after Isobel (Penelope Wilton) shares the surprise invitation to Larry Grey’s wedding, the Dowager drops in on the future Lady Merton. After a few minutes, the bride to be admits that the only reason Isobel received the invitation was because the young lady is not thrilled with taking care of her future father in law. The episode then ends with the gift of a puppy. That is what I call a family matriarch, tying up all of the loose ends before leaving for Europe.
  • The Crawleys are off the races at Brooklands. Joining them is Edith’s (Laura Carmichael) new editor Laura Edmunds (Antonia Bernath). While Henry (Matthew Goode) and Mary (Michelle Dockery) are officially an item, the race and the ensuing crash that kills Charlie Rogers (Sebastian Dunn) creates questions about the future. In what maybe history’s first drunk call, Henry calls Mary after the race, drunk on grief and alcohol, proposing marriage. Mary breaks up with Henry. Tom (Allen Leech) reminds Mary that being hurt is part of life. My kudos go to Goode and Dockery for not saying much after the crash, but actions speak louder than words. Like the characters on-screen, the audience at home was surely thinking Matthew (Dan Stevens) and how his death left a hole that can never truly be filled.
  • After a very quiet and awkward dinner, Bertie (Harry Hadden-Patton) and Edith sit quietly in the drawing-room. Also filled with thoughts of life and death, Bertie proposes marriage. Edith’s yes is tentative and almost slips out the truth about Marigold. If he is as good of a guy as I hope he is, he will accept that there is no Edith without Marigold.
  • I keep wondering if Rose (Lily James) will return. There are only two more episodes left. Lily James has been a very busy girl over the past year, but it would be nice to see Rose one last time before we officially say goodbye to the Crawleys.


  • Mr. Carson (Jim Carter) finally got a taste of his own medicine. Mrs. Hughes (Phyllis Logan) and Mrs. Patmore (Lesley Nicol) concoct a plan that Mrs. Hughes hurt her hand and is therefore, unable to cook. That means either one of two things: starvation or Carson has to cook (shocking, I know!). The look on his face was priceless and hilarious.  I don’t foresee Mr. Carson complaining about his wife’s culinary skills again.
  • Mrs. Patmore’s bed and breakfast is open for business and already tainted by scandal. The couple sitting in her dining room are Mr. and Mrs. but not Mr. and Mrs. to each other.
  • Julian Fellows sadistic streak toward Anna (Joanne Froggatt) and Bates (Brendan Coyle) seems to be over. There were no medical scares this episode.
  • On the educational front, Andy (Michael Fox) is given the opportunity by the local school teacher to complete his education and Molesley (Kevin Doyle) is offered a position as a teacher. Daisy’s (Sophie McShera) exams are coming up and her success is imminent.
  • Baxter (Raquel Cassidy) is still worrying about Mr. Coyle and his influence over her. I don’t think she needs to worry about that.
  • Thomas (Rob James-Collier) is still looking for another job. Though with Molesley receiving the offer of the teaching job, the job search may not be necessary.

Dowager Quote Of The Week

“Nobody is always friendly.”


There are two more episodes left. The drama is being amped up fast. Where it will end? We will find out very soon.

Downton Abbey Series 6 Episode 4: Tom Needs A Job, Gwen’s Back & Daisy Has Not Learned Her Lesson

As usual, this recap contains spoilers. Read at your own risk if you have not seen the episode.


  • The issue with the hospital is becoming rather tiresome. Cora (Elizabeth McGovern)/Isobel (Penelope Wilton) vs Violet (Dame Maggie Smith) is become too intense. Please Julian Fellows, tell me that this story line will be put to bed soon.
  • Not that Tom Branson (Allen Leech) is back, he needs a job. With Mary (Michelle Dockery) running the estate, Tom has to once more find his footing in the world that is Downton Abbey.
  • Speaking of Mary, the Dowager and Lady Shackleton (Harriet Walter) are playing matchmaker. This time it’s Henry Talbot (Matthew Goode), who Mary met at the end of season 5 at the rented country estate of Rose’s (Lily James) in-laws. While I have not been completely spoiled, I do know that Henry is more than a match for Mary.
  • With the drama with her former editor in the past, Edith (Laura Carmichael) is looking to hire an editor, while her father, Robert (Hugh Bonneville) continues to deny that his health may not be what it once was. But Cora is beginning to suspect that a trip to the doctor is needed. Rosamund (Samantha Bond) returns to her childhood home to convince Edith become a trustee of woman’s college. Rosamund thinks she is playing matchmaker for Edith with the college’s treasurer, but something entirely different and wonderful occurs.
  • In a mid-season surprise that made this fan very happy, the former Gwen Dawson (Rose Leslie) returned to Downton. Not as a housemaid, but as Mrs. Harding. Her husband, John  (Philip Battley) is the treasurer of the women’s college. Of course the first one to recognizes Gwen out of her uniform is Thomas (Rob James-Collier), who got too big for his britches this episode. But let’s stay upstairs for a little while longer before we venture downstairs. As soon as the light bulb goes off for the Crawley’s, Gwen starts talking about Sybil (Jessica Brown-Findlay). Bring on the waterworks. As a result of this lunch, Mary begins to question what she is doing with her life.   In case you need a reminder of Gwen’s time as housemaid, here it is.


  • Back to Thomas. Now that Mr. and Mrs. Carson (Jim Carter and Phyllis Logan) are on their honeymoon, Thomas is in charge downstairs. He likes to be at the head of the table a little too much. Of course, it takes Robert to remind Thomas about the true nature of leadership.
  • Mr. and Mrs. Carson return from their honeymoon at the end of the episode. The question is, what shall they be referred to as. For comfort’s sake, Carson and Mrs. Hughes. It’s nice to see that some things never change.
  • I am thoroughly convinced that Julian Fellow’s sadistic streak has gone too far. Now that Anna (Joanne Froggatt) is pregnant, he decides to scare her, Mary and the audience by giving her what appears to be another miscarriage. Thankfully, Mary and Anna are able to get to London and confirm that Anna has not lost this pregnancy. The joy on Mr. Bates’s (Brendan Coyle) face that he is to be a father is contagious. I truly hope that we will see Baby Bates by the end of the series.
  • The merry war at the Dowager house has quieted down, at least for this week.
  • Miss Baxter (Raquel Cassidy) is approached by the police. Her former colleague who convinced her to steal the jewels years ago has been implicated in a similar crime. If Miss Baxter were to testify for the police, she might help them to put him away for good. Molesley (Kevin Doyle) tries to convince her to testify.
  •  Now that Yew Tree Farm is empty, Daisy (Sophie McShera) is convinced that Cora has gone against her word to give to Mr. Mason (Paul Copley). Against the recommendation of her co-workers, she nearly knocks Cora down, thinking that Yew Tree Farm is going to someone else, but just at the last second, Robert tells her that it is going Mr. Mason.  That that was too close for comfort for me.


We are about halfway through this final series. That means that the loose ends will slowly start to be tied up. I like the potential of Henry Talbot and Mary. It takes a certain kind of man to keep Lady Mary Crawley happy. As for the rest of the plot this episode, the pacing is good, I hope I will be pleasantly surprised and happy with the final episode.

Dowager quote of the week: On the subject of Henry Talbot as a possible match for Mary, “She needs more than a handsome smile,” Violet says upon seeing Mary with Henry, “and a hand on the gear shift.” Who knew the Dowager was that dirty?

See you next week.


Downton Abbey Series 5 Episode 1 Recap: Sex, Poor Edith And A Hint Of Jane Austen

Like all recaps, these posts contain spoilers from last night’s episode. Read at your own risk if you have not see the episode.


Julian Fellows continues with his semi-sadistic hatred of Edith. The episode opens with Edith bicycling over to the Drewe farm to see her baby girl, who is being raised by Mr. and Mrs. Drewe. While Mrs. Drewe has swallowed the story about Marigold’s “dead” parents, Mr. Drewe knows more than he lets on.  Back at the Abbey, Mrs. Hughes finds a book with Michael Gregson’s name written in it. At the end of the episode, she nearly burns the house down, when, in grief, she throws one of the letters from Michael into the fireplace, but it misses the mark.

Robert and Cora’s 34th wedding anniversary is fast approaching, but Robert is blase about the fact. What starts as a simple anniversary dinner with the family nearly turns into a rumble when Rose invites Sarah Bunting (Daisy Lewis), the schoolteacher from the village, who Tom met last season. Miss Bunting is not shy about sharing her political views, especially her approval of The Labour Party and the leader, Ramsay MacDonald.

While Charles Blake has yet to appear this season, Tony Gilllingham is back and still pursuing Mary with a vengeance. His latest scheme is trying to convince her to go away with him for a few days. He even goes so far as to boldly enter her bedroom when she is only in her dressing gown. We all know what happens to single men who dare to enter Lady Mary’s room.

Tom has not yet completely warmed up to the idea that he is part of the family. The mere presence of Sarah Bunting re-awakens his old political ideas. I have a feeling that Tom will be doing a balancing act this series between his former self and his present self.

We see briefly, the youngest and cutest members of the Crawley family, Sybbie and George. Sybbie’s nickname for her grandfather is donk. All together now, awwww.

And finally, Violet is playing matchmaker, a la Mrs. Bennet. Her co-conspirator is Lady Shackelton (Harriet Walter, Fanny in the 1995 Sense and Sensibility) The person she is matching for is Isobel. The the two men are Dr. Clarkson and Lord Merton. While Isobel tried to gently turn them both down last series, I have a feeling that Dr. Clarkson may need to up his game if his competition is a peer of the realm.


In this week’s mid life crisis moment, Mr.  Molesley tries to impress Miss Baxter by putting dye into his hair and trying to cover his slow balding. The person who notices is not his intended target, but Robert, who asks if Mr. Molesley is Latin.

Speaking of Miss Baxter, we know something of her secret. In an effort to get the monkey known as Thomas off her back, Miss Baxter tells Cora that she stole jewelery from a previous employer and was in jail for three years. When Thomas tries to tell Cora, she reads him the riot act (Go Cora!). But then Thomas saves Edith from death by asphyxiation from the fire and is the hero once again.

Daisy is convinced that because of all of the years she has spent in the kitchen, she has missed out on years of school and has an urge to return to schoolroom. Mrs. Patmore does not agree with her.

Bates and Anna are back to their pre-rape relationship. In fact, I think, if he would have, Bates would have taken his wife home for a little private time. But it is only the first episode, so we may see another roller coaster that is the married life of John and Anna Bates soon enough.

Jimmy’s old employer and Downton’s newest cougar, Lady Anstruther (Anna Chancellor, Caroline in the 1995 miniseries and a descendant of Edward Austen, one of Jane Austen’s brother’s) has come to Downton for obvious reasons. And it’s not just for visiting Cora.

And finally, Mr. Carson is appointed to lead the committee to build a war memorial in the village. The traditional choice has always been the Earl and not his butler. The times, they are a changing.

Analysis: First episodes of any season usually require some catching up (not that we need it), but it felt like it was a little too much re-hashing of the end of last season. But it is only the first episode, so only time will tell.

Dowager Quote Of The Week

Lady Shackelton: Of course, a single peer with a good estate won’t be lonely for long if he wants to be.

Lady Grantham: You sound like Mrs. Bennet.

%d bloggers like this: