The Remains Of The Day (DVD)

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The Remains Of The Day (DVD)

James Ivory directed this quietly moving film set just prior to World War II. On the large English estate of Lord Darlington (James Fox), a discipline...

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Review of "The Remains Of The Day (DVD)"

published 20/02/2013 | CelticSoulSister
Member since : 25/10/2009
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Thanks heartily for all the r/r/c to everyone. If it appears that I've not rated you, it most likely will be due to having used up all your reviews and am waiting for your next publication. Also I've disabled receiving alerts via email for a good reason.
Pro Well-acted, well-produced/directed, historically accurate, sleek and professional
Cons A little too long, difficulty for me in disassociating Anthony Hopkins from Hannibal Lecter
very helpful
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Characters / Performances
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"Romance versus duty"

RELEASED: 1993, Cert. U

RUNNING TIME: Approx. 135 mins

DIRECTOR: James Ivory

PRODUCERS: John Calley, Ismail Merchant & Mike Nichols

SCREENPLAY: Ruth Prawer Jhabyala

MUSIC: Richard Robbins


Anthony Hopkins as James Stevens
Emma Thompson as Miss Kenton
James Fox as Lord Darlington
Christopher Reeve as Jack Lewis
Hugh Grant as Reginald Cardinal



Adapted from Kazuo Ishiguro’s novel of the same name, The Remains Of The Day begins in what I believe is meant to be the early 1950s, with wealthy American Reginald Cardinal buying Darlington Hall, after the death of its previous owner, Lord Darlington. James Stevens has been head butler of the huge country house for many years, and continues his service under Reginald Cardinal.

As a long shot, James Stevens contacts Miss Kenton, who he had previously employed as head housekeeper prior to WW2 with the view of asking her if she will return and take up her old position in the house. After receiving a letter from Miss Kenton, James drives from Darlington Hall in rural Oxfordshire, down to the West Country to see her.

The film then flashes back to just before WW2 in Darlington Hall, to the day when James Stevens first employed Miss Kenton. After she accepts the job, the storyline continues mostly in this flashback format, following James’s and Miss Kenton’s growing, yet unacknowledged attraction towards one another.

Meanwhile, Lord Darlington entertains various foreign political figures at the house, with heated discussions taking place over what should be done to avert the first rumblings of WW2.


The Remains Of The Day starts off well, taking the viewer back to a long-ago England…one of country mansions, fox-hunting, maids, butlers and the political corruption exercised by the ruling classes. James Stevens and Miss Kenton go about their daily tasks with a calm demeanour, never letting their professional stance slip.

The historic aspects of this film are put across extremely well. The style of clothes, domestic décor, appearance of shops and streets in the nearby village etc. are spot-on. I was trying hard to detect something small that the film director may have missed (cruel of me, I know!) such as an unnoticed passer-by in the street doing something like using a mobile phone, but I didn’t see any slip-ups at all. Those historic accuracy levels resulted in me whilst watching The Remains Of The Day, truly feeling as though I’d been stepped into a time machine and gone back to another era.

The acting in The Remains Of The Day is extremely good by the whole main cast, with Anthony Hopkins as head butler James Stevens and Emma Thompson as Miss Kenton flawlessly stealing the show. Although his part was much smaller, despite being significant, Hugh Grant was surprisingly delightful as good-natured political journalist Reginald Cardinal, and although nothing in the film is intended to contain any comedy in the slightest, I couldn’t help raising a smile at one or two little quirks in his character. Christopher Reeve also gave a decent performance as the easy-going, liberal-minded Jack Lewis, the wealthy American who buys Darlington Hall after the death of Lord Darlington. James Fox as Lord Darlington himself is also very good, although it is my opinion that his equally involved part was less demanding than the other main characters.

The music to The Remains Of The Day is orchestral in nature, changing in mood as appropriate to whatever is happening during the story, but much of the time I only had a vague awareness of it, as it slid nicely into the background.

This is a film which relies heavily on character development, and how people’s perceptions of one another gradually shift under a thick veneer of professional self-control….mingled with political wheeling, dealing and well-veiled subterfuge. I found that I needed to expend some concentration whilst attempting to stay on the level with the story and focus on the off to the side issues, once or twice getting a little confused about which parts were flashbacks and which weren’t, but I think I did manage to stay with the plot.

Although The Remains Of The Day is a very slick, polished romantic drama set in an atmosphere of almost obscene wealth and political wrangling, I did find it a bit slow moving at times, feeling that some scenes were unnecessary to the overall storyline and its impact. I feel that impact could have been more powerful were the film just a little shorter.

It was also distracting for me in that I just can’t help typecasting Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lecter, and in The Remains Of The Day (which wasn’t made too long after Silence Of The Lambs), the way Hopkins delivers most of his lines, and some of his facial expressions are identical to that of Lecter….this is a pity, because overall Anthony Hopkins is an actor of admirable worth and ability, who for me, seems to have become irretrievably trapped in one of his previous cinematic personas. I realise that is my problem rather than any flaw in Hopkins’ acting though, but it did mar my enjoyment of The Remains Of The Day just a tiny bit.

Overall and despite my very minor niggles outlined above, The Remains Of The Day nonetheless is an interesting, well-acted, well-presented and constructed film where the characterisation has been carefully thought out, along with great attention having been paid to historical accuracy. The drama levels are tasteful and quiet, which makes a pleasant change from films which are in your face, and overall it is a sleek, professional production that I’m sure would appeal to most people who love something with a bit of class.

However, despite for the most part having enjoyed The Remains Of The Day very much, I don’t think it is something I’d choose to see again as it isn’t the type of film that would make me hanker for second helpings. It is really worth watching though, and does come highly recommended from me, but I believe it may appeal to women slightly more than men….possibly because of the romantic element, even if such is veiled.


At the time of writing, The Remains Of The Day can be purchased from Amazon as follows:-

New: from £4.50 to £29.99
Used: from £1.25 to £7.00

Some items on Amazon are available for free delivery within the UK, but where this doesn’t apply, a £1.26 charge should be added to the above figures.

Thanks for reading!

~~ Also published on Dooyoo under my GentleGenius user name ~~

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Comments on this review

  • mattydalton published 24/02/2013
    I used to go on holiday every year in Devon when I was a kid and remember this being filmed in Powderham Castle - my parents took me there on several occasions!
  • ryanando published 21/02/2013
    Brill review :-)
  • Kukana published 21/02/2013
    I'm pretty sure we have this on our shelves, as it came in a special offer with something else, but have never watched it. Evidently we should do so!
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Manufacturer's product description

James Ivory directed this quietly moving film set just prior to World War II. On the large English estate of Lord Darlington (James Fox), a disciplined butler, Stevens (Anthony Hopkins), devotes himself to his duties with rigorous dedication. Like his father (Peter Vaughan) before him, Stevens lives to serve--to bring order and certainty to the estate's minutiae. Though Stevens has the opportunity to break free of this mold in the form of a romance with the spirited housekeeper, Miss Kenton (Emma Thompson), he chooses to remain within the safe structure of the household, even one that has misguided loyalties to Nazi Germany. Christopher Reeve and Hugh Grant costar as men hoping to show Lord Darlington the danger of his allegiances. THE REMAINS OF THE DAY is Merchant-Ivory's follow-up to HOWARDS END, which also starred Hopkins and Thompson; both actors were nominated for Academy Awards for their roles as dutiful servants in the later film.


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