Tag Archives: British Film

Film Review: Downton Abbey: A New Era (2022)

THE AGING CRAWLEYS

In 1928, the Crawleys meet with two unexpected events knocking at their door. One is an opportunity to boost their finance when a film production company requests to use their estate for a silent film. Two, Lady Violet, the Dowager Countess of Grantham, astounds the family when she reveals that she inherits a villa in France that was given to her by the recently deceased Marquis de Montmirail. To unveil the mystery, Robert and Cora travel to France and hand over the headship to Lady Mary to look after the estate and host the film crew.

Twelve years of legacy of this British cult Downton Abbey that all started as a television drama on ITV back in 2010 and followed by the first feature film in 2019 has kept its loyal fans like me occupied on our chairs and enjoying the beautiful artistry of their aristocracy. One aspect that was maintained throughout their presentation is that the show remained persistent in facing not only emotional but economic and political challenges. Just like the television drama and the first film, Downton Abbey: The New Era emphasized the changing times testing the old and traditional family.


LADY VIOLET’S CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT

There is a chance that the Downton Abbey-loving audience may get less motivated towards the plot of this film because both the events challenged in this film to the Crawleys may be assumed quite dramatic because these things neither occurred nor hinted at the future. The fan-favorite character of Lady Violet was assumed to die due to old age but the news she broke to the family after watching this drama for twelve years looked like a pretty forced attempt of writing in order to conclude this character. So revealing the news of her French inheritance is eyebrow-raising for me.

Why? If I assess this matter, perhaps will stretch at length but in short, the Crawleys, in the middle of the story met a severe financial crisis to the extent that they decided to cut the working staff. If the dowager knew about her inheritance for a long time, why didn’t she help out Robert when needed. If she came to know in this film in 1928, that’s the other thing.

But the death of Lady Violet’s character is a wise idea because I am not sure if Downton Abbey will continue to the third film although the story has the potential to continue to represent the Crawleys until the second World War if not the whole century. But it is the richness of Julian Fellowes‘ writing that I am concerned about, who is 72 already. How long can he continue storytelling us? What if he breathes his last during the continuity of Downton Abbey? I cannot imagine someone replacing his writing in the middle. After all, this Downton Abbey is his creation and needs to conclude one day. The same applies to Maggie Smith who is 87 at the time of writing this review. Therefore, killing the old character of the dowager was the right decision.


WAS FILM SHOOTING IN THE PLOT THE RIGHT IDEA?

This Downton Abbey film was particular to highlight this silent film industry business that reached the estate of the Crawleys. Shan’t film shooting be avoided and continued with a different plot? Here, there are two methods of judging this film. One is that the film didn’t need to show filmmaking and proceed with the familiar character developments. The audience may think that Julian Fellowes could have escaped the idea of shooting a film inside the estate for the sake of decent humor. Or the film definitely needed to show the change which was either acceptable or not to the old-age aristocratic family who has been facing economic, political, and social challenges. I support the latter.

Why? Because just like the Crawleys faced different events between 1912 and 1926, the art of filmmaking in the very same period was also meeting a change in the direction of the British winds. Many viewers may have not observed the sequence of shooting a silent film turning into sound after Lady Mary pinches the idea to the director that much of this is largely inspired by the making of Alfred Hitchcock‘s 1929 film ‘Blackmail‘ which is the first sound film in British filmmaking history. Blackmail was supposed to be a silent film but the producer let Hitchcock make some portions of the film in sound. But Hitchcock decided to make the entire film talkie. Just like depicted in Downton Abbey, Blackmail had a leading actress with a weak English accent and was dubbed by someone else. Moreover, Downton Abbey’s executive producer Gareth Neame is the grandson of Ronald Neame and was the assistant cameraman for ‘Blackmail’ before he established a prominent name in the film industry.


CLOSING REMARKS

Should Downton Abbey continue from here? I would love to see Julian Fellowes writing more about the Crawleys until the end of the Second World War if he guarantees that the aesthetics and quality will not compromise at all. Overall, Julian Fellowes offers another masterpiece presentation of the Crawleys with the visible ‘New Era’ elements. The loyalists of this drama will understand the film and praise it highly.

RATINGS: 8.2/10

Film Review: After Love (2021)

Mary Hussain (Joanna Scanlan) is a British convert who is married to a Pakistani immigrant Ahmed (Nasser Memarzia). Ahmed unexpectedly passes away and leaves the widow isolated in grief. Soon after his death, she finds out that Ahmed secretly had married a French lady Genevieve (Nathalie Richard) with whom Ahmed also has a son.

Okay, first thing! Thank you BBC and BFI to come up with such a heartwarming emotional drama, After Love. Although, I have watched this plot many times in my life, but from the British productional aesthetics, perhaps this means a lot to show a story of two women in different situations, but both being Ahmed’s wives. What was striking about the film is the writing growth that solidifies Mary’s emotional development in the first forty minutes.

There are many touching moments in the film starting from the jawdropping first scene that builds the intensity followed by a one-shot consolation scene of Mary surrounded by lamenting women. Joanna has really given a terrific all-round performance. I am all sold when the directors take special care of small details. There is a scene where Mary in her prayer forgets a verse of Fatiha and tries to remember. It is a brilliant moment to develop theories about this scene. One is she actually forgot the line and felt embarrassed about it. Perhaps Ahmed used to help her remember the lines while praying and she happened to bring that memory back. Or maybe she was a new convert or had recently started to pray and made sense to forget. Or maybe the verse where she stopped had a translation she knew would break her.

I felt it was pretty unnatural on Genevieve not to doubt Mary’s facial shock and silence in the first meeting. Genevieve also didn’t consider a background check on her but rather trust her enough to lend her a copy of the house key. The film is slow-burn but I think the pace could have progressed if the director had considered also picturizing Mary-Ahmed’s happy moments from the past. Despite being a ninety-minute drama, the film was pretty long due to an extremely short plot.

Joanna Scanlan is the heart and soul of this film. This is the first time I have watched her performance and I believe it was a tremendous performance. Her facial expressions were very touching. The film is a quality definition to understand grief, tragedy, and shock. Especially, the elements of emotional surprises blend so well.

After Love also challenges the character to reevaluate the understanding of the religion and test her faith on both bullet incidents. One that she lost her husband and two, she discovered that there was another house and family he kept without her notice. It brings a lot of questions about the plot and Mary’s quest for the answers she never imagined to ask; did Ahmed lie or cheat with Mary? Was Ahmed scared to inform her and maintained the secret? Was Mary the one to lose her temper had Ahmed ever let her know? Because at least the French connection was aware that Ahmed had a wife in Dover and preferred to stay with her. Was religion or the teachings Ahmed had educated Mary were misleading with his deception or an unwanted defense? Was Ahmed to be adjudged amongst one of those thousands of global immigrants who marry a local citizen to get nationalize? It is nowhere propaganda against one nation as the director Aleem Khan himself is a British Pakistani.

After Love is melancholic and a sad tale of losing your beloved and struggling to react to the choices made by the deceased. The plot has made rounds but the detailing and the trajection of hypnosis that carries the burden on the characters is what makes this film a brilliant case study of human affairs.

Ratings: 8/10

Film Review: The King’s Man (2021)

The King’s Man is the third chapter in the Kingsman series of films that takes the audience more than a hundred years back to present what were the causes and factors involved that gave birth to the Kingsman organization. Directed by the same guy, Michael Vaughn, this film touches on so many important political events that happened before, during, and after World War I.

The Kingsman films are basically a comic book series ‘Kingsman‘ written by Mark Millar and the artwork by Dave Gibbons. Kingsman is so far consisting of three parts, starting with ‘The Secret Service‘ of 6 issues. Then ‘The Big Exit‘ which is only 1 issue. And then ‘The Red Diamond‘ of 6 issues. Keeping in mind, Mark Millar gave birth to Kingsman in 2012 and Michael Vaughn picked the literature in 2014; so the Kingsman franchise in all formats has made steady progress in just 10 years.

Rhys Ifans as Rasputin in 20th Century Studios’ THE KING’S MAN. Photo credit: Peter Mountain. © 2020 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. All Rights Reserved.

History has been one of my favorite subjects. Therefore, time-traveling with Kingsman to one of the most important political events in history was necessary. Of course, the events were not historically accurate. Hitler didn’t kill the Tsars, Mata Hari didn’t seduce Woodrow Wilson, Rasputin wasn’t a fighter, and many more.

There may be two reasons for these inaccuracies. One is that Michael Vaughn took the liberty to present the film with such theatrical license to become how the history would look like to build a purpose of giving birth to an organization.

The other reason is maybe this is how the original source of the comic book series is written. And if that is so, then the historical inaccuracy does not become a problem because the writer has the liberty to present his/her audience the way he/she wants to write a fictional story on a real event. There is no argument in that. There are tons and tons of fictional novels based on real events and that is completely okay. If anyone still has any objection, let me drop this to you, Joker was once Iran’s representative to the United Nations *cough*.

One more fact that we need to acknowledge is that Mark Millar and Dave Gibbons themselves are the executive producers of all three Kingsman films. So no one should have any problem with any portion of the story if the Gods of that universe are the ones financing these films.

Michael Vaughn’s direction was quite different than the previous two installments. But I must say, the direction was pretty complex in the middle of the film. I felt the film was deliberately running fast, they have to catch the train and reach the platform where the organization will come into existence. But also, Michael Vaughn usually paces the screenplay.

The casting of this film is so elite and perfect. Ralph Fiennes in the leading role as the Duke of Oxford was marvelous thought. He perfectly suits a franchise like Kingsman. Tom Hollander! I mean what a smart and intelligent pick for the triple role of Tsar, Wilhelm, and George. Giving such heavy roles to the same actor was funny and clever as two of the three, Tsar and George were identical. To my utter shock, Rasputin is played by Rhys Ifans. Never imagined him being Rasputin. What a thought! He looked so Rasputin in superb makeup. And I found this Rasputin in physical presence better than Ben Cartwright‘s in the limited series, The Last Czars.

And then the fast action sequences, that have been important elements of Michael Vaughn’s filmography, will not disappoint. Rasputin’s fighting was fun to watch, I was laughing at this action sequence because Rasputin was fighting with elements of Russian folk dance.

Maybe the film is not appreciated because of the complex direction in the middle of the film and is quite different than the first two Kingsman films. But I recognize the importance of this film and I think it was quite alright. I liked the idea of how one evil sent his followers to bring hell on the global powers. This film is extremely political and may also be the reason that Kingsman fans showed less fondness as compared to the other two. But I believe, this film stays untouched by the graceful aesthetics and makes no harm in this Kingsverse. With the development in the mid-credit scene, I wait for its continuity.

Ratings: 8.2/10