There’s nothing realistic about “Downton Abbey”, the saga of a wealthy family in early 20th century England. The interaction between nobles and servants takes place without major mishap. There is no controversial figure to inject some risk into the plot. Examples of kindness and moral lessons abound.
None of this, of course, is a sin. Created by writer and director Julian Fellowes in 2010, the series spanned six seasons, gaining an epilogue in cinema, now spun off into a second film.
“Downton Abbey” emerged as an observation of the English aristocracy and its relationship to the working class. In practice, the series focused on a microcosm in which conflict arose from the reverberation of external factors, such as World War I and the creation of the free state of Ireland.
The heart of the show, however, was in the dramas of the inhabitants of the fictional Yorkshire mansion, in which crises caused by family ties, work connections and the fine line between employers and employees, which Fellowes portrayed with excessive affection, are laid bare.
The new film, called “Uma Nova Era”, assumes its vocation for the feuilleton. It is a strictly followed formula. The production, directed by Simon Curtis (“Seven Days with Marilyn”), begins with a wedding, ends with the arrival of a baby who represents the new generation, and is peppered with small dramas and dilemmas between them.
As most of the plots developed throughout the series have long since been resolved, the new film breaks up into two narratives that inject a new color into the shabby walls of the centuries-old mansion.
One of them deals with an inheritance left to Countess Violet Crwoley (Maggie Smith), the matriarch of the family who gains an estate in the south of France, listed in the will of a marquis with whom she had a brief encounter decades ago.
The second brings a film crew to Downton Abbey, chosen as a silent film location. The arrival of stars played by Dominic West and Laura Haddock introduces excitement into the routines of both the Crowley family and their employees.
“Downton Abbey – The New Age” doesn’t have an exciting and enveloping dramatic line. Aware of this, Curtis and Fellowes focus on drawing moments for their large cast.
Without major technical outbursts, the film in fact continues like a soap opera, jumping from dialogue to dialogue, little by little stitching and solving the new dilemmas imposed on the characters.
The result works. “The New Age” has enough meat on its bones to delve, but not too much, into themes such as terminal illness, homosexuality in 1920s England and the perception of the decay of the British aristocracy. There is even room for mystery about the ancestry of one of the protagonists.
All of this is, of course, conducted with just the right amount of lightness and emotion. For fans of the series, the moment of catharsis is the death of a character with the right to emotional goodbyes and never belated apologies.
“Downton Abbey – A Nova Era” seems to end the trajectory of its inhabitants once and for all, as its dramas would no longer make sense in a more and more modern world. While it lasts, though, it’s an engaging story, with a charming cast that balances emotion and fun more than ever.