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UK 1993
Directed by
James Ivory
134 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
4 stars

The Remains Of The Day

Anthony Hopkins stars as Mr.Stevens, a chronically self-effacing head butler and Emma Thompson as Miss Kenton, a housekeeper, both employed at the country estate of Lord Darlington (James Fox) in this typically irresistible Merchant-Ivory adaptation of Kazuo Ishiguro’s novel (adapted by M-I regular, Ruth Prawer Jhabvala). It is a very English love story (it would make a good companion piece to David Lean's wartime classic, Brief Encounter, played out against the backdrop of Lord Darlington’s involvement with Neville Chamberlain’s appeasement policy and the end of the old-boy network of upper-class diplomacy. All this we see as flashback from the perspective of 20 years later as Stevens wends his way across the Home Counties to meet Miss Kenton.

Hopkins isn’t called on to do a lot, rather the opposite, and he does that very well (although personally I couldn’t shake off the shadow of Hannibal Lecter in his pedantic self-control, his much earlier effort as Frank Doel in 84 Charing Cross Rd perhaps would have been a more appropriate model), whilst Emma Thompson is captivating as Miss Kenton. Don’t ask why a beautiful single woman would fall for a boring fuddy-duddy 20 years her senior or how any intact male could resist her charms (the scene in which she forces Stevens to show her the book he has been reading highlights the simultaneous strengths and weaknesses of this pairing).  Honourable mentions in the acting stakes should go to Peter Vaughan as Mr. Stevens Snr. and a pre-rom-com staple Hugh Grant as Lord Darlington's journalist godson. Although Miss Kenton is somewhat underdeveloped as a character (we never, for instance find out why her two marriages failed) give yourself up to the elegiac tempo and superb recreation of a bygone era and you are in for a treat.

FYI: Thompson and Hopkins, who had played the leads in another Merchant-Ivory film, Howard’s End, the year before, replaced the original casting choice of Jeremy irons and Meryl Streep when the Merchant-Ivory team took over from the original director, Mike Nichols (and original screenwriter Harold Pinter), who stayed on to co-produce.




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