October 9, 2019
I was sat at my desk and a voucher from Lloyds Bank caught my eye. As a customer they gave us six cinema tickets. I’d had half a mind to go and see the above film from its release. So on a cold Friday afternoon with nothing better to do than various chores that seemed deeply unappealing, I wended my way to north York to the Vue cinema.
I grew up with musical films – South Pacific, Calamity Jane, My Fair Lady, High Society, The Sound Of Music. Most of these were from the 60s with no pretence at gritty realism or more ambition than seeing off a baddie and the guy getting the gal after a bit of a chase. The soundtracks were all sublime: how could you fail with Cole Porter, Rogers & Hammerstein or Frederick Loewe. Unfortunately there was no music involved in Downton Abbey but the harmless beautifully overdressed fun was similar.
I handed in my voucher and was offered a VIP seat at no extra cost. I accepted with grace and shuffled into Screen Four. The theatre must have sat about 400. However, on this day it was me and about 30 pensioners; I mean proper pensioners. I expected to find medical staff located discreetly in the gloom with stretchers to carry the fallen out. I felt quite the youngster. With this audience came the loud banter before the main programme started. It was loud not through inconsideracy but because I imagine several were hard of hearing. This took place after they stumbled to their seats down the dark rows unsteady on their feet and uncomprehending of the protruding armrests. To accompany the chat was the loud unwrapping of various confectionary. It’s surprising how noisy Werthers Originals can be. Eventually the lights went down and it quietened down either through death or the fact that the film had started, we’ll never know.
I’m not a massive fan for Downton Abbey but splendid scripts, delightful scenery and wonderful acting linked up to hokum plots is quite a compelling combination when dropped into a period drama. The plot was around the visit of the King and Queen to Yorkshire and their choice of Downton Abbey as overnight accommodation. I’d hope for lots of fawning and obsequious nonsense; I was not disappointed. The Royalty was remote, haughty and cosseted whilst the Downton Abbey personnel variously worried about the delivery of ball gowns, cleaning the silver and moving chairs in heavy rain. Julian Fellowes, the writer and one of the producers, managed to include an attempted assassination, an illegitimate heiress, a revealed pregnancy, a gay romance, petty theft, Royal marital difficulties and an insurrection of the servants.
By being on the big screen the quality of the photography was amazing with drone or helicopter shots of the castles, stately homes and breath taking gardens. The size and colour was vivid and emphasised the beauty of the English landscape. There were several town or city shots, which hid mainly behind nightfall. One was meant to be York and it seemed very similar but not the actual city. An observation about all these crowd shots or the period vehicles is how manicured and over polished everything looks. A Post Office van delivers the letter looking in concours condition. (No doubt a fretting owner was standing behind the camera with a chamois). I know we’re not talking about the real world but a little bit of mud or dust and a neck tie not straight wouldn’t have hurt the plot.
Each character well known and loved were as expected. Maggie Smith was given the best lines as you’d hope. Such was the waspish nature and the brilliant delivery that they were all laugh out loud moments. I did this on several occasions and was worried that these outbursts might activate a nurse with a defibrillator or a loaded hypodermic syringe to approach me in the dark.
The film ended with everyone dancing, literally, and all the knotty problems solved.
They haven’t dismissed another movie. Count me in.