THE REMAINS OF THE DAY. 1993. A MERCHANT-IVORY PRODUCTION. DIRECTED BY JAMES IVORY. BASED ON THE NOVEL BY KAZUO ISHIGURO. STARRING ANTHONY HOPKINS, EMMA THOMPSON, JAMES FOX, HUGH GRANT, CHRISTOPHER REEVE, PETER VAUGHAN, LENA HEADEY AND BEN CHAPLIN. REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©
This is an utterly gorgeous film, visually and in just about every way you can think of. It’s beautifully-scripted and acted and the shots of the sumptuous and luxurious Darlington Hall are breath-taking. Based on the best-selling novel by Kazuo Ishiguro, I have the loveliest memories of watching it in the dying light of a sunny November day several winters in a row and I’ll probably always associate it with that time of year.
Anthony Hopkins turns in a masterful performance as Mr. James Stevens, butler to Lord Darlington in the England of the 1930s and 1940s. Stevens is the perfect butler. The consummate professional. Discreet, efficient, born to serve and, most importantly, putting his job above all else.
His main goal in life seems to be to ease Lord Darlington’s passage through his life, to the point where he is willing to sacrifice his own chances of love and a family and a satisfying personal life. Stevens clearly gets this devotion to duty from his stiff-upper-lipped elderly father, Mr. William Stevens, who ‘buttled’ his butt off his entire life and who, in fact, will die ‘buttling.’ Ooops. Spoiler alert, haha.
There are two main storylines in the film. Stevens falls gradually in love with Emma Thompson’s younger housekeeper, the lively and spirited Miss Kenton, who is as good at her job as Stevens is. She doesn’t live for her job, however. She is quite amenable to the idea of love and all that goes with it. Stevens, though, is so buttoned-up and used to keeping his feelings under strict control that he is unable to respond to her advances. Do the pair ever manage to get it together…? I couldn’t possibly comment, haha.
The other- grimmer- storyline concerns Lord Darlington’s alleged ‘Nazi-sympathising’ and his dubious commitment to helping Germany re-arm and strengthen herself after her crushing defeat in World War One. The situation for England grows more and more serious as the war which seems inevitable to some draws nearer.
Lord Darlington’s journalist godson, ably played by Hugh Grant, accuses Stevens of turning a blind eye to the well-meaning but misguided Lord Darlington’s turning the house into a base for Nazi operations in England. Stevens, however, would never dream of presuming to question his master’s actions, however dodgy-looking they may be.
It is only later in the film, when we see Stevens setting off on a motoring holiday after the war, that we discover he may not have been entirely comfortable after all with what went on at Darlington Hall. At the very least, he sees it as something to keep quiet about.
There are so many highlights and key scenes in the film. Poor old Mr. Stevens Sr. falling with the heavy tray and Coronation Street’s Master Butcher Fred Elliott attending him as his doctor. Miss Kenton trying to wrestle Steven’s so-called ‘dirty’ book out of his hands. Hugh Grant getting the birds and the bees talk out in the grounds from a mortified Stevens. The opulence of Darlington Hall during the ill-fated conference, and the major preparations below stairs for said conference. The scene at the bus-stop in the bucketing rain at the end. Oh God. Just thinking about it is causing me to tear up. Say no more…
This film is a thing of understated beauty, subtlety and delicacy. It is one of Anthony Hopkins’s and, indeed, of Emma Thompson’s finest performances, in my ever-so-humble-opinion. Together, they pack one hell of an emotional punch.
I must warn you before you watch it, you’ll need hankies. Lots of hankies. And fancy chocolates too and maybe a nice glass of white wine. Chilled to perfection and served the way Mr. Stevens himself would do it. It’s the kind of classy film that deserves a bit of effort being put into watching it. Any trouble you take over it will most certainly be worthwhile.
AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.
Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based performance poet, novelist, film blogger, sex blogger and short story writer. She has given more than 200 performances of her comedy sex-and-relationship poems in different venues around Dublin, including The Irish Writers’ Centre, The International Bar, Toners’ Pub (Ireland’s Most Literary Pub), the Ha’penny Inn, Le Dernier Paradis at the Trinity Inn and The Strokestown Poetry Festival.
Her articles, short stories and poems have appeared in The Metro-Herald newspaper, Ireland’s Big Issues magazine, The Irish Daily Star, The Irish Daily Sun and The Boyne Berries literary journal. In August 2014, she won the ONE LOVELY BLOG award for her (lovely!) horror film review blog. She is addicted to buying books and has been known to bring home rain-washed tomes she finds on the street and give them a home.
She is the proud possessor of a pair of unfeasibly large bosoms. They have given her- and the people around her- infinite pleasure over the years. She adores the horror genre in all its forms and will swap you anything you like for Hammer Horror or JAWS memorabilia. She would also be a great person to chat to about the differences between the Director’s Cut and the Theatrical Cut of The Wicker Man. You can contact her at:
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2) A WRITER’S JOURNEY
3) ANNA MEETS COUNT DRACULA
4) ANOTHER FIFTY REALLY RANDOM HORROR FILM REVIEWS TO DIE FOR…
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7) FIFTY FILTHY-DIRTY SEX-POEMS YOU MUST READ BEFORE I DIE.
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9) THE DEVIANTS
10) VISITING DAY
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