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This review is from: The Remains of the Day [VHS]  (VHS Tape)
In spite of the magnificence of the stately home in which this is set this is a surprisingly low-key film, helped by a beautifully moody score. Everything about it is understated to great effect. Anthony Hopkins plays a butler who is anxious to distance himself from the fact that a previous employer, Lord Darlington (James Fox) was a notorious Nazi appeaser. His new employer (Christopher Reeve) loans him his car so that he can go and pay a long-overdue visit to the ex-housekeeper (Emma Thompson). During the journey Hopkins reflects on his past career at Darlington Hall.
It is very hard to find the right words to describe what a beautiful film this is. Anthony Hopkins gives an incredible performance, quietly restrained but acting with every fibre of his being, as the man who has devoted himself to a lifetime of service, to the detriment of his own emotions and feelings. Nowhere is this more effective than in the scenes with his elderly father (Peter Vaughan), where he has the difficult job of portraying a man who cares deeply for his father but won't let anything (not even his father's death) get in the way of duty. Vaughan is also faultless as the man who has effectively turned himself into a human machine, there solely to serve others, and distraught when he can no longer do so.
James Fox has the unenviable role of playing Lord Darlington, a man who, though you can understand his own personal reasons for wanting to appease the Germans (he made a pact in the trenches with a German friend that they would never go to war again), it is hard to be sympathetic to his naivety when dealing with the Nazi's. The scene where he orders the two Jewish refugees he has working for him to be sent away is quite chilling. As is the house-party where he lavishly entertains some of the German top brass, and behind his back they are quietly making note of all his fine arts, for when they finally get to commandeer the house! These are all deeply uncomfortable scenes to watch.
The relationship between Hopkins and Thompson is the highlight of this film. Emma Thompson playing one of her most loveable characters, the oh-so English (almost Joyce Grenfell-ish) Miss Kenton. Hopkins is never better than when struggling with his attraction for her, and Thompson's increasing frustration with him that he won't break out of being a butler, not even for an instant! If you watch this film you won't regret it, it is intelligent, thought-provoking and deeply moving, and has some of the best acting you will ever see on film. I don't want to give too much away, but the ending perfectly sums up the old saying that to be reticent about love is possibly the worst mistake of all!