The Remains of the Day
is one of Merchant-Ivory's most thought-provoking films. Anthony Hopkins is a model of restraint and propriety as Stevens, the butler who "knows his place"; Emma Thompson is the animated and sympathetic Miss Kenton, the housekeeper whose attraction to Stevens is doomed to disappointment. As Nazi appeaser Lord Darlington, James Fox clings to the notion of a gentleman's agreement in the ruthless political climate before World War Two. Hugh Grant is his journalist nephew all too aware of reality, while Christopher Reeves gives a spirited portrayal of an American senator, whose purchase of Darlington Hall 20 years on sends Stevens on a journey to right the mistake he made out of loyalty. As a period drama with an ever-relevant message, this 1993 film is absorbing viewing all the way.
On the DVD: the letterbox widescreen format reproduces the 2.35:1 aspect ratio with absolute clarity. Subtitles are in French and German, with audio subtitles also in English, Italian and Spanish, and with 28 separate chapter selections. The "making-of" featurette and retrospective documentary complement each other with their "during and after" perspectives, while "Blind Loyalty, Hollow Honour" is an interesting short on the question of appeasement and war. The running commentary from Thompson, Merchant and Ivory is more of a once-only diversion. --Richard Whitehouse
Stevens (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.