A critical and ratings success during its six-season run, period drama Downtown Abbey captivated viewers, boosted public television ratings and garnered critical acclaim. After four years away, fans can catch up with the Crawley family and their servants in Downtown Abby: The Motion Picture.

 As the film opens, the Earl of Grantham (Hugh Bonneville) receives a letter from Buckingham Palace, announcing that the King and Queen will be spending a night at the Abbey during their upcoming tour of the country. As the family and staff busily prepare for the visit, family matron Violet, Dowager Countess of Grantham (Maggie Smith), is perturbed that she’ll be forced to face her estranged cousin, Maud (Imelda Staunton). And when then the staff is visited by the royal servants, they’re dismayed to learn they will be displaced by the palaces own royal servants.

For fans of the series, the film will feel like a reunion. Despite a large cast of family members, extended family and household staff, creator and screenwriter Julian Fellowes allows nearly all the key characters a moment to shine, with multiple storylines woven throughout the film. There’s no shortage of drama. Family discord, staff power struggles, relationship issues. It’s never dull. Predictably, things only get better when Maggie Smith’s Dowager Countess appears. Her sarcasm is the highlight of any scene she’s in and her scheming is always interesting, if not entirely successful.

While Smith unsurprisingly steals every scene she is in, Downtown Abbey is largely an ensemble effort. Hugh Bonneville, Michelle Dockery, Allen Leech, and Jim Carter have slightly more screen time than anyone else, but none dominate the story. Julian Fellowes does a great job of allowing viewers to catch up with our favorite characters, while crafting a storyline that could easily lead to future movies, should they be greenlit.

As a big fan of the series, I don’t know how the film will play with neophytes. The most difficult thing might be figuring out the relationships between all the characters; something a ten minute prologue narrative by Jim Carter (Mr. Carson) and Mrs. Hughes (Phyllis Logan) tries to help untangle. The Blu-ray and DVD also includes a “Series Recap” featurette, which offers a summary of characters and events. If you haven’t seen the series, I might suggest giving that a watch before playing the movie.

Presented in the 2.39:1 aspect ratio, Downtown Abbey: The Motion Picture the Blu-ray disc offers a fine visual presentation. Overall, definition is solid with slight softness showing up only briefly on a couple of occasions. The flawless print shows no shine of DNR or edge enhancement. Indoor scenes are well lit, allowing for nice contrast between the bright family areas and the decidedly darker servant level. As with the television show, some of the costumes–gowns, tuxedos, jewelry, etc., are lovely and stand in stark contrast to the servants.

The DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack is fairly straightforward but serves this dialogue-based film very well. While action beats aren’t a focus here, a few exteriors add a little punch. Trains and rainstorms rumble through to nice effect. Most importantly, dialogue is clean, clear and concise throughout and the familiar theme song sounds great.

English SDH, English, Spanish and French subtitles are included.

The following extras are available:

  • Audio Commentary with Director Michael Engler: In this running, screen-specific commentary Engler provides a look at the series and it’s adaptation, story, characters, cast and performances, location, filming, etc.,
  • Series Recap (HD, 10:09) Mentioned in the review, this featurette offers actors Jim Carter and Phyllis Logan giving an overview of Downtown Abbey, the cast of characters and major events in their lives.
  • Cast Conversations – Upstairs & Downstairs Conversations: Key cast members discus their thoughts on reuniting for the film.
    • Upstairs (HD, 7:26): Elizabeth McGovern, Allen Leech, Michelle Dockery, Laura Carmichael, and Hugh Bonneville discuss what it felt like returning to their roles after a three-year absence and their thoughts on the film.
    • Downstairs (HD, 9:26): Jim Carter, Joanne Froggatt, Michael C. Fox, Phyllis Logan, Sophie McShera, and Robert James Collier discuss their roles. They are joined by newcomer Imelda Staunton, who played the upstairs character Maud Bagshaw.
  • The Royal Visit (HD, 3:15) Various cast and crew offer quick comments in this quickest of looks at the technical elements of the royal visit. Not too much to see here.
  • True to the Twenties (HD, 2:15) The film is set in 1927. This is another quick featurette with various cast and crew explaining how the film did its best to stay true to the time period.
  • Welcome to Downtown Abbey (HD, 2:47) Various cast and crew comment on the main set.
  • The Brilliance of Julian Fellowes (HD, 2:14) Various cast and crew don’t hold back in singing the praises of the show creator/writer and film screenwriter.
  • Deleted Scenes (HD, 5:33) Eight in total.
  • DVD of the film. It includes all the same extras except Series Recap.
  • Digital Code.