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Film Review: The Remains of the Day

By Donnambr @_mrs_b
About The Remains of the Day (1993)The Remains of the DayStevens (Anthony Hopkins) is the perfect English butler, a man who has spent the best part of his working life in service at Darlington Hall. Housekeeper Miss Kenton (Emma Thompson) also works at Darlington, and as the days pass, she and Stevens develop a close feeling for each other. Meanwhile, as the Second World War approaches, Lord Darlington’s (James Fox) wish to avert catastrophe leads him to become involved with the Nazis. Adapted by the Merchant-Ivory team from the Kazuo Ishiguro novel, ‘The Remains of the Day’ was nominated for eight Oscars, including Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Director, Best Screenplay and Best Picture.

Starring: Anthony Hopkins, Emma Thompson, Christopher Reeve, Hugh Grant, Lena Headey

Directed by: James Ivory

Runtime: 134 minutes

Studio: Columbia Pictures Home Entertainment

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Review: The Remains of the Day 

I enjoy the theme of unrequited love and it’s played a part in my writing and will continue to do so. Admitting one’s feelings for another is never an easy thing and in James Ivory’s The Remains of the Day, an adaptation of the novel by Kazuo Ishiguro, we have a poignant tale of unrequited love that was nominated for eight Oscars but is it worth all the fuss?

The film opens in England in the 1950s where Mr Stevens (Anthony Hopkins), a butler at Darlington Hall, receives a letter from a former colleague, Miss Kenton (Emma Thompson), who used to be a housekeeper. The house owner, Mr Lewis (Christopher Reeve), agrees to give Stevens some time off to visit Miss Kenton. On the long drive, Stevens takes us back twenty years to 1930s England where he is butler to the misguided Lord Darlington (James Fox) and his fierce loyalty to his master and to social convention is threatened by the housekeeper, Miss Kenton.

Mr Stevens is an exemplary butler, head of a large household of staff but more than meeting his match in Miss Kenton. They clash many times when she first works at Darlington Hall but over time things slowly change. Stevens is utterly flawless at his work, keeping house clean, supervising staff at meal times and ensuring Lord Darlington and his many guests are never left with an empty glass. So focussed is Stevens on his work that he seems devoid of emotion. He enlists his father to work at the house only for the aging servant to prove something of a liability. While serving Lord Darlington and guests at an elaborate dinner, Mr Stevens is summoned to his dying father’s bedside but he doesn’t even budge. Servitude is more important than his father’s mortality. By the time he does get away Stevens finds his father is already dead. The servants, including Miss Kenton, are in tears and she tries to console the butler only for him to insist he must get back to his duties. It is cold but it’s also the extent to how deeply engraved perfection and service are in Stevens’ heart.

As time passes the relationship between Stevens and Miss Kenton becomes warmer. She often jokes with him but Stevens is unmoved, his barriers too thick for her to break down. In one powerful scene Miss Kenton finds Stevens in his room reading and backs him into a corner, struggling to prize the book out of his grasp. Stevens is visibly drawn to Miss Kenton but he controls himself and no romance develops. Miss Kenton has clearly fallen for Mr Stevens but sadly he cannot return her feelings and this is the core of the film, the unrequited love and the damage that it does to Stevens, all of his own making. We’re eventually led to Miss Kenton’s departure from Darlington Hall and you will scream at the screen as Stevens has a few opportunities to reciprocate Miss Kenton’s feelings. The worst has to be when he hears her crying in her room and stands outside hesitating. When Stevens finally enters the room you’ll be thinking will he say something now? No. He hesitates again then asks Miss Kenton to make sure a part of the house is cleaned! Stevens’ loss is augmented by the descent of Lord Darlington into unforgivable ties with the Nazis in the build up to the Second World War. Twenty years on, Stevens makes for a reunion with Miss Kenton but can he finally tell her how he feels?

The Remains of the Day is beautifully acted throughout. Thompson is delightful as Miss Kenton but Hopkins is simply perfect as Mr Stevens, whose penchant for servitude supersedes everything else, including his own happiness, but does he realize too late? A great supporting cast includes Christopher Reeve and an up and coming Hugh Grant but it’s Hopkins and Thompson that will demand your full attention.

The Remains of the Day is a simple but beautifully told story. The relationship between Mr Stevens and Miss Kenton will make you more angry than happy but the great acting and pristine English countryside will counterbalance all of that. Arguably career best performances from Hopkins and Thompson, this one is not to be missed.

Verdict: 5/5

(Film source: reviewer’s own copy)

Film Review: The Remains of the Day | Thank you for reading Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dave

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