Remains of the Day
directed by James Ivory
(Columbia, 1993)

I read the back cover of the movie box and thought I would not like Remains of the Day, even though Anthony Hopkins is one of my favorite actors. (Wasn't he awesome in Hannibal?!) But when the movie began, I was pulled into the story and became totally caught up in it. It was great! It is that subtle type of movie that sneaks inside you and kicks up your emotions. It is set in pre-World War II England and reflects the mindsets of the people about the Nazis and Jews.

Hopkins is brilliant as the emotionless butler, James Stevens, who puts his duty before everything else. He rules the staff of the manor with an iron fist and demands the very best performance from each of them. He remains neutral in all the issues of the master of the manor and his colleagues. When questioned about any of their discussions, he states that listening to their conversations would distract him from his duties. He does exactly as he is told, when he is told, to the best of his professional manner.

When he hires Sally Kenton (Emma Thompson), his troubles begin. She has both an active mind and a healthy conscience. She has some difficulty adjusting to life as a non-thinking puppet and they clash. Thompson is ideal for this role and meshes wonderfully with Hopkins. They play well off each other and seem to bring out the best in the other's performance. A more believable lead couple could not be found.

The elderly William Stevens, James Stevens' father (Peter Vaughan), has been waiting tables for 54 years. He desperately wants to continue, even though his health is declining quickly. His son hires him to replace the under butler that ran off with the housekeeper. Kenton is soon caught between the two. She wants to be friends with Stevens Sr. and look after the elderly man's health, but the younger Stevens will not allow it. Yet, through it all, he is falling for her and just too stubborn to admit it because of "professionalism."

This is a wonderful movie. It will fully involve all your emotions, likely because it is so easy to identify with the characters and what they are going through. I cried twice and laughed out loud several times. This is one movie that will take you by surprise. Do not judge it by the back cover of the movie box. They have grossly undersold this one.

- Rambles
written by Alicia Karen Elkins
published 12 April 2003

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