This 1993 film has been flitting around in my memory since I brought the novel by Kazuo Ishiguro in January. This year I have challenged myself to read some classic novels. I decided I was going to watch the movie again after reading the book.
This quickly became a problem as I struggled through the novel despite the beautiful writing. The Remains of the Day is a first person narrative from the perspective of English Butler Extraordinaire, Stevens. A letter from a former housekeeper sets Stevens to reminisce about his years in service to his former boss Lord Darlington.
Stevens plans a journey to see Miss Kenton who is recently divorced and despairing about her future. It is Stevens’s intent to ask Miss Kenton to return to Darlington house and as he travels towards her his memories about their past overtake him.
Unfortunately the novel’s use of flashbacks is really distracting and makes it difficult to follow the thread of the story.
The Movie however is Stellar! I originally rented this story years ago after seeing Emma Thompson in Sense and Sensibility. I was looking for more films of hers and discovered this one. Anthony Hopkins does a superb job as Stevens, every movement and gesture by him speaks volumes about a man that spends his life being unobtrusive.
Emma’s character Miss Kenton brings an infusion of energy into the household. Sparks fly between the pair immediately. Steven’s is appalled by Miss Kenton’s familiarity with the staff and even himself. The two wage a very respectable war between the hallways of Darlington Hall. It soon becomes obvious to the viewer that the two have deeper feelings between them. Miss Kenton’s rash nature however leads her to try to get an emotional response from Steven’s by threatening to marry and leave Darlington.
It backfires. And now the years and emotional distance between them seems to possibly be at an end. Yet life is rarely that simple and though both seemed primed to finally confess their feelings a twist of fate may leave them separated for ever.
Everything in this film is subtle yet emotional. The is one of the earliest Merchant/Ivory collaborations and it received stellar reviews. The cast is superb. I forgot Christopher Reeve was in this film. He does a great job in the small but important role of Mr. Farraday the American millionaire who saves Darlington Hall from being destroyed.