Are you going through Downton Abbey withdrawal? Consider quenching your thirst for gorgeous British costume drama with a trip down memory lane – Merchant Ivory’s The Remains of the Day. Before Carson and Mrs. Hughes, 1993 introduced us to Anthony Hopkins’ Stevens and Emma Thompson’s Miss Kenton.
Synopsis from Rotten Tomatoes,
Filmed with the usual meticulous attention to period and detail of films from Ismail Merchant and James Ivory, The Remains of the Day is based on a novel by Kazuo Ishiguro. Anthony Hopkins plays Stevens, the “perfect” butler to a prosperous British household of the 1930s. He is so unswervingly devoted to serving his master, a well-meaning but callow British lord (James Fox), that he shuts himself off from all emotions and familial relationships. New housekeeper Miss Kenton (Emma Thompson) tries to warm him up and awaken his humanity.
New York Times film critic Vincent Canby’s original 1993 review tells us all we need to know,
Taking this rather arcane story, adapted from Kazuo Ishiguro’s award-winning novel, Ismail Merchant, the producer; James Ivory, the director, and Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, the writer, have made “The Remains of the Day,” a spellbinding new tragi-comedy of high and most entertaining order. Here is an exquisite work that could become a quite unlikely smash.
In the way that “The Remains of the Day” looks grand without being overdressed, it is full of feeling without being sentimental. Here’s a film for adults. It’s also about time to recognize that Mr. Ivory is one of our finest directors, something that critics tend to overlook because most of his films have been literary adaptations. It’s the film, not the source material, that counts. “The Remains of the Day” has its own, securely original cinematic life.
You really owe it to yourself to embrace the subtly and beauty of one of Merchant Ivory’s masterpieces.