Escaping to Downton Abbey

To the Manor born…

War. Climate Catastrophes. Strikes and Bombs and War and Refugees. There’s a real End of Times feeling to the collected crises our world is facing. It’s enough to make you want to run and hide. For me, that means running away to the movies or reading a good book.

It doesn’t matter how many critics laud Joaquin Phoenix’s performance in Joker or how many new films are about war, I’m boycotting them all to give my psyche a reprieve. Stately manner, lovely costumes, a gently told tale of class warfare of the British gentry…yes, thank you ma’am.

Having not been a follower of the BBC series, I do read reviews and have a working knowledge of Julian Fellowes’ saga. The film, Downton Abbey opens with a sweeping vista of the grand home that gives the film it’s name. It’s a pleasure to walk through those doors and bask in the company of charming people who’s problems seem slight in comparison to the world outside the theater. Who wouldn’t want to pull up an antique Edwardian chair by the fireplace and enjoy a spot of tea?

Perhaps if I’d had a deeper connection to the characters, both upstairs and down, I’d have felt more invested in the main drama. It’s hard to get worked up about staff not getting to do their jobs when it seems they all work so tirelessly anyway. The one moment of real conflict is when one of the characters decides to step outside his role and winds up in jail for being himself. It’s good to see the film tackle a serious issue. I know that the television program did this as well. It’s not all visits from the King and Queen after all; this is also an estate that must be managed and run with the need for considerable funds.

There is some good action scenes with an assassination scheme foiled and a clever conspiracy to keep the royal staff locked away. As usual it’s Maggie Smith in her role as the Grand Dame who gets the sharpest lines and has the most rigid sense of class rules. Yet in this film, we see her warm to the idea of an interloper and she becomes the focus of the films sentimentality. Downton Abbey may not be a roaring good time, but it’s a lovely interlude in our busy, stressful lives and I highly recommend it. So grab some friends and head to the local tea shop and linger over a Queen’s tea. Or plan to discuss the film over scotch and whiskeys at a local pub. You deserve the break!

Drinks With Films Rating: 3 glasses of port sipped delicately from crystal glasses (out of 5)

How I Live Now~another young woman on a hero’s journey

Saoirse Ronan gives another amazing performance as a  young woman, Daisy, rebelling against society but trapped by her own rules.  Directed by Kevin MacdonaldHow I Live Now, is photographed beautifully in rural England and Wales.  This is a tale of adolescents left to raise themselves in the beautiful countryside.  The theme of military oppression and impending war is a little heavily enforced but the children and young adults give realistic performances and the change from bitter goth girl to young lady in love, is handled nicely.  Her romantic interest, her cousin, played by George MacKay, is presented as the strong, silent type and given a hawk and a handsome sweater to set off his good looks–again, a tad over-the-top, but it’s nice to have a little romance before the world starts unraveling.

The film runs a little long and the hazardous journey the two girls undertake is the least convincing part of the film.  Are all the men is this film either rule-abiding and enforcing citizens with no love of children or rampaging, murderous rapists?  There are no examples of any rational adults save Daisy’s aunt, who still abandons the children to fly to Geneva.

How I Live Now is scary and has moments of violence but is worth seeing for Saoirse Ronan and George MacKay‘s performances and the lovely cinematography.   The young actress playing the much-abused little sister, Piper, has a few nice moments and the soundtrack is outstanding!  How I Live Now is a good warm-up to another film about a totalitarian society featuring a young heroine….I believe it’s part of a trilogy…

Bechdel Rating: though the conversation with her Aunt is brief, it doesn’t concern her male cousin but her deceased mother and Daisy does finally come around to nurturing Piper.  A-

Rating: Clean water is scarce in the film so 3 glasses of pure water