(l-r) Laura Carmichael stars as Lady Hexham, Elizabeth McGovern as Lady Grantham and Michelle Dockery stars as Lady Mary Talbot in 'Downton Abbey'

As a fan of the show, I can attest that “Downton Abbey” the film is a treat for devotees of the British television series. Newbies will still be able to enjoy the lighthearted fare that takes place at the real life Highclere Castle which substitutes for the show’s fictional Yorkshire estate, home to the Crawley family. However, those familiar with the series created by Julian Fellowes will benefit the most since the film picks up a year and a half after the show’s end without a flashback introduction for newcomers.

It’s 1927, and it’s just been announced that King George V (Simon Jones) and Queen Mary (Geraldine James) will be arriving at Downton Abbey where they’ll wine, dine, and stay overnight while visiting Yorkshire. The always dignified Lord Grantham (Hugh Bonneville) is so excited about the visit that he wants to show emotion which is just fine with wife Lady Cora (Elizabeth McGovern), after all she is American.

The rest of the Crawley estate is also a buzz with excitement but Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery)is worried that new butler Thomas Barrow (Rob James-Collier) won’t prepare the house and staff adequately for the Royals so she’s asked her beloved friend and Downton’s former butler Carson (Jim Carter) to resume his old duties while the King and Queen are visiting. Fans of the series know that Thomas has a wicked streak and he’s done many despicable things on the show but in the film the audience feels sympathy for him as he’s temporarily relieved of his duties and later in the film as his sexuality takes on a more meaningful role.

Dame Maggie Smith is back as the feisty Dowager Countess Violet, she immediately lights up the screen when she enters a room and it’s great to see her once again exchange wit with Isobel Crawley (Penelope Wilton). Here the Countess prepares to verbally battle Lady Bagshaw (Imelda Staunton) who is traveling with the Royals and intends to cut Lord Grantham out of her will.

Over the 52 television episodes, the well-written British drama had plenty of shocking moments as major characters died unexpectedly. Director Michael Engler who helmed the series finale and writer-creator Julian Fellowes have no daunting intentions in mind as the duo deliver a celebration of the show giving fans one more rendezvous with the wonderful cast reprising their roles as a sendoff for fans.

If you’re not a fan of the show but curious about the film, I still recommend it. You won’t be lost but you also won’t be able to appreciate these characters unless your familiar with their history. You may decide to binge watch the television show which is streaming on Amazon Prime.

“Downton Abbey” is a treat for fans. Seeing the beautiful Highclere Castle on the big screen, the fantastic costumes by Anna Robbins, and the reunited cast is thrilling and once the lights go down and John Lunn’s iconic theme begins to play, you’ll be smiling from ear to ear.

(3 ½ stars)

Joe Friar is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association (Los Angeles) and the Houston Film Critics Society.  He co-founded the Victoria Film Society and reviews films for Hit Radio 104.7 and the Victoria Advocate.

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Joe Friar is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association (Los Angeles) and the Houston Film Critics Society. He co-founded the Victoria Film Society and reviews films for Hit Radio 104.7 and the Victoria Advocate."

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