The Remains of the Day (1993)

reviewed by
Pedro Sena


FILM TITLE:                REMAINS OF THE DAY
DIRECTOR:               JAMES IVORY
COUNTRY:                 ENGLAND 1993
CINEMATOGRAPHY:         TONY PIERCE ROBERTS
MUSIC:                       RICHARD ROBBINS
SCEENPLAY BY:     RUTH PRAWLER JHABALA
CAST:                        Anthony Hopkins ( Stephens ), Emma Thompson
 Mrs. Kenton ), James Fox, Christopher Reeve, Hugh Grant, Tim Piggot-Smith,
Michael Lansdale, Peter Vaughn
BASED ON:              Kazno Ishiguro's novel
SUPER FEATURES:         What an acting showcase.!
          !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The best the English have to offer, is not always a technical piece, but one can never, ever, fault the outstanding performances that one gets when one see an Ivory & Merchant piece of work. They just have the innate ability, perhaps it is novelist Ruth Prawler Jhabala's talent, to come up with some pieces that just tear your heart into watching something, even if it is the downfall of an anthill.

THE REMAINS OF THE DAY is just such a piece. One realizes that there isn't much that is going to happen, except the end of the old fashioned standards, and yet, we see the valiant servant and butler do his very best, despite the most unfortunate odds, and pressing of situations.

In the process the butler, and the leader of all the servants hires a woman that has a bit of the independent spirit, but is capable nonetheless. And she proceeds to help make the house run a bit more efficiently, so Stephens can concentrate on his duties. In the middle of it, we see him show what makes him so special to any lord that owns the mansion. He is the mansion. Be it a politically sensitive situation, or just serving yet another drink to a guest on a fox hunt, the ever faithful servant who never loses sight of his job, manages to maintain his position, and those of his master.

But he has a failing. His job is so important to him, that he never has the time to check into the chances he has to meet Mrs. Kenton, whom he has come to like, but his position will not allow him to do anything with. It just isn't his priority, it seems. And in the end, with a new tenant, he takes a trip, and tries to lure Mrs. Kenton back to the fold, but she is married, has come to appreciate her situation, and now her daughter is on the way to have a child, which prevents her from joining the lonely Stephens, and help once again to make the mansion run as smoothly and efficiently as ever.

Anthony Hopkins, once again, shows why he is such a master actor. His portrayal of the aging butler, who is very much in control of his faculties, is a pleasure to watch. Even when in the midst of very sensitive political discussions he manages to keep his opinions to himself, and show himself a truly exceptional servant in every way. His lord seems to have some affiliations to the Nazis in a business sense it seems, and although it is becoming a fast, and harsh fact, he still manages to pour yet another cup of tea, and not discuss anything of a political nature.

Later, a brash American business politician retires to the same household. Earlier, in a meeting of the minds, the senator had made comments that displaying his unpopularity in this very formal group of upper crustaceans. But he had an idea of what the future might bring, rather than accept the norm of the present at the time. His brashness may have made him unpopular with the other guests, but it signaled the change of the guard as well. Stephens has it all, like they all do, but he has no sense of personal living, or appreciation for life as a normal man would. This is the part that the subtle Mrs. Kenton provides, although never passes past the point of asking Stephens why he does not display his feelings. by the time he does, he can no longer connect with the woman he might have loved as faithfully as he does his master.

It's hard not to enjoy this VERY SMOOTH film, and fail to appreciate the nature of the acting. It is blended smoothly with very gentle angles, and never uses the camera as an intrusive detail of the story. It stands aside and shows us how live moves, and lives, and in Stephens' case, how it is served.

Beautifully conceived, with exceptional dialogue, and very well written exchanges that never reach a boiling point in the most extreme, and sensitive of situations. Few films will ever stand up as well as this one does. Pure, and true literature of film, if there ever was anything of the kind. They should teach things like this to film makers.

4.5 GIBLOONS
Copyright (c) Pedro Sena 1994

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