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Downton Abbey: A New Era review — fans will simply love it

Downton Abbey: A New Era — Dame Maggie Smith takes center stage as the second movie whisks us away from the real world.

Downton Abbey: A New Era
(Image: © Ben Blackall / © 2022 Focus Features LLC)

Our Verdict

Ticks all the right boxes for any Downton fan.

For

  • Dame Maggie Smith steals the show once again.
  • Fashion stakes are higher than ever as movie stars arrive at Downton.
  • Look out for the many hilarious one-liners and brilliant 'in' jokes for fans

Against

  • One for steadfast Downton fans — or at the very least it might help if you have seen the first movie

This latest offering from Julian Fellowes is like going out for dinner with an old friend you haven't seen in a while, you know where you are with them, no one is pretending to be something they're not, and you can pick up right from where you left off the last time you saw them... if you are looking for a movie with high octane twists and turns then perhaps this one's not for you! But, there is no doubt that Downton fans will be happy with the movie sequel, which gives just the right balance of happiness, humor and heartache in all the right places. 

Set in the late 1920s, Downton Abbey: A New Era is one of two halves. We find Downton feeling rather sorry for itself with the roof leaking and much-needed funds for repairs quickly diminishing but, as luck would have it, there is a film production company wanting to use the house as a location for their new movie... much to Lord Grantham’s (Hugh Bonneville) disgust. 

But while her father isn't keen on having a team of ghastly "kinema" folk taking over his magnificent home, Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery) is more open to the idea... and soon the offer of a hefty cheque helps change Grantham's mind.

Downton Abbey: A New Era Hugh Bonneville Michelle Dockery

Hugh Bonneville Michelle Dockery are back as Lord Grantham and Lady Mary.  (Image credit: Focus Features)

Elsewhere, there is also a sunny trip to the South of France for some of the family after it is revealed that Dowager Countess of Grantham (Dame Maggie Smith) has been left a beautiful villa in Côte D’Azur after a secret dalliance with a handsome Frenchman back in 1864.

Downton Abbey: A New Era

A change of scenery: The Crawley family visit the South of France.  (Image credit: Ben Blackall / © 2022 Focus Features LLC)

As Lord Grantham whisks his wife Cora and half the family and staff off to France, he is shocked to stumble across a family secret that leaves him questioning his entire existence — but what really happened all those years ago between Violet and her mysterious French suitor?

Downton Abbey: A New Era

There is excitement for Anna and Daisy when they discover movie stars are coming to Downton.   (Image credit: Ben Blackall / © 2022 Focus Features LLC)

Meanwhile, back at Downton, the staff are beyond excited about having Hollywood come to visit apart from Carson of course, who can't think of anything more hideous. Anna (Joanne Frogatt) and Daisy (Sophie McShera) can't wait to rub shoulders with Hollywood royalty as Guy Dexter (Dominic West) and screen siren Myrna Dalgleish (Laura Haddock) arrive on the doorstep along with film director Jack Barber (Hugh Dancy) to make their silent movie. But while Lady Mary finds herself more involved with the film than she bargains for after forming a bond with Barber, it is the brilliant Mr Molesley (Kevin Doyle) who really finds his calling in life.

Downton Abbey: A New Era

 Laura Haddock is a breath of fresh air as movie star Myrna Dalgleish. (Image credit: Ben Blackall / © 2022 Focus Features LLC)

Movie stars and fancy French villas aside, there is no doubt that the whole film is led by the brilliant Dame Maggie Smith. Her one-liners as razor-tongued Violet are what make the film (“Ms. Dalglish has all the charm of a verucca”) and if there is one thing that will never get old in Downton it is her brillaint acid barbed insults.

Downton Abbey: A New Era

Dame Maggie Smith steals the show as acid-tongued Violet.  (Image credit: Ben Blackall / © 2022 Focus Features LLC)

While it remains to be seen if this is the last installment from the Downton franchise, there is no denying that if this is the final engagement for the Crawleys, then things have been very handily left tied up in a nice neat bow. 

But there is still hope for more. There's no doubt Fellowes could find some more Downton drama to write about if the appetite was there and we'd for one love to see the family heading into the 30s. 

Downton Abbey 3? Yes, please! 

Downton Abbey: A New Era is available to stream on Peacock in the US. In the UK it's available for digital rental. Check out full details on how to watch Downton Abbey: A New Era.

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Claire Crick
Claire Crick

Claire is Assistant Managing Editor at What To Watch and has been a journalist for over 15 years, writing about everything from soaps and TV to beauty, entertainment, and even the Royal Family. After starting her career at a soap magazine, she ended up staying for 13 years, and over that time she’s pulled pints in the Rovers Return, sung karaoke in the Emmerdale village hall, taken a stroll around Albert Square, and visited Summer Bay Surf Club in sunny Australia. 


After learning some tricks of the trade at websites Digital Spy, Entertainment Daily, and Woman & Home, Claire landed a role at What’s On TV and whattowatch.com writing about all things TV and film, with a particular love for Aussie soaps, Strictly Come Dancing and Bake Off


She’s interviewed everyone from June Brown — AKA Dot Cotton — to Michelle Keegan, swapped cooking tips with baking legend Mary Berry backstage at the NTAs, and danced the night away with soap stars at countless awards bashes. There’s not a lot she doesn’t know about soaps and TV and can be very handy when a soapy question comes up in a pub quiz! 


As well as all things soap-related, Claire also loves running, spa breaks, days out with her kids, and getting lost in a good book.