Does anyone doubt the ability of the BBC to make one fine film? They’ve done it again and again – “Pride and Prejudice” (in my view, the best adaptation ever made), “Cranford,” “Wives & Daughters,” “Jane Eyre,” “Upstairs, Downstairs.” I took advantage of the long weekend to watch one more – “Downton Abbey.” And it was fantastic. I actually had to pace myself to make it last longer. I told myself I could only watch one episode a day. This was about as successful as telling myself I could only have one roll at Thanksgiving dinner or buy one movie on Black Friday. That is to say, it wasn’t, but I tried. If you’ve not watched this series yet, I highly encourage you to run, yes run, to the library and check it out.
Downton Abbey is the story of an aristocratic family, and it begins with the sinking of the Titanic, which throws all their lives into disarray as the question of who is to inherit the house, money, and title becomes unclear. This is a time of change in England, with the question of the rights of servants and women up for debate. All the characters wrestle with these changes in a different way – some resisting and some embracing. It’s refreshing to see the master of the house as someone who is kind and merciful, which is evidenced in Lord Crawley’s interactions with his three daughters and his immense staff. Unfortunately, not everyone is quite so kind, so there is quite a bit of plotting among the servants and sisters. Everyone’s future is uncertain, not just because of the question about the entail, but because you know WWI is just right around the corner. The film is beautifully shot, with wonderful views of the stunning house and grounds, not to mention the period clothing and jewelry. You come to love and root for the characters, all of whom have their own flaws and complexities. It’s hard to choose any favorites, though Maggie Smith, who plays Lord Crawley’s mother, steals the show whenever she appears on camera. The second season will be released in February, so have no fear if you watch the first season and don’t get your fill. There’s more to come!