Ladies and gentlemen, it's time to dress in your finest evening-wear because the doors of Downton Abbey are open once again for Downton Abbey: A New Era. After what was a rather underwhelming big screen debut, it's a pleasure to report that A New Era is a marked improvement and a film that captures more of what made the show so special for many viewers.

The Crawley family goes on a grand journey to the South of France to uncover the mystery of the dowager countess's newly inherited villa. At the same time, a film crew turn up at Downton to shoot their latest fim, ruffling a few feathers in the process.

Julian Fellowes created Downton Abbey back in 2010 and there's no doubt in my mind that he expected it to become the television behemoth it became, running for five years across six seasons that aired in a number of countries around the world. What A New Era manages to achieve is to deliver some of the light-hearted fun the show had in abundance all while ensuring it packs an emotional punch, which the show did in good measure too. It makes for a fun and breezy return to the great house that manages to make sure tears are shed by the end. 

Fellowes' writing is rather by-the-numbers here and the direction from Simon Curtis is nothing to really knock your socks off but it doesn't need to be. The film has a bit of a curse when it comes to having far too many characters to fit in, meaning that some scenes only exist to ensure every character has something to at least say or do in the film. There are a number of moments that genuinely feel too short or pointless that a substantial amount of time could have been cut from the end product.

As an ensemble cast, every single member is having a ball being back for another big screen outing. Hugh Bonneville is as pompous as ever as Robert Crawley while Michelle Dockery snoots about perfectly as Lady Mary but it's Dame Maggie Smith who steals the show as the Dowager Countess of Grantham, revelling in the world that she has always been the most valuable player from the very beginning. It really is a pleasure to watch her work in this world. There's some fun new additions such as Dominic West as Guy Dexter and Laura Haddock as Myrna Dalgleish, two movie stars causing havoc in the halls of Downton to the detriment of the staff downstairs.

While it may not reach the heights of the show, Downton Abbey: A New Era more than makes up for the lacklustre previous outing. What Julian Fellowes has crafted here is an incredibly fond farewell for one of the most iconic British exports so make sure the doors remain closed at all costs.

Verdict: ½


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