The Remains of the Day - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

The Remains of the Day Reviews

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Super Reviewer
½ May 4, 2012
A beautifully wrought piece about the dangers of living through the affairs of aristocracy, this film is the embodiment of the Merchant-Ivory set of films while also being a fairly faithful adaptation of the book by Kazuo Ishiguro. Though the book is well represented and the overall message and grandeur of the film was in no way affected, I did take issue with several liberties that changed scenes in the book, raised questions that needn't be, and arguably some choices were simply unavoidably strange. Characters were merged, POVs were changed, and undertones were glaring. But I digress, this film does justice to the text by showing the incomparable Anthony Hopkins in a role that could only belong to him. His instincts as a servant and as a man with "dignity," as he espouses, truly embodied the character of Stevens. He seemed bland, yet affected, kind yet unbothered, and clinical while being personable and repressed. Oh, was he repressed. So enters Emma Thompson as Miss. Kenton, the housekeeper who keeps Stevens on his toes and challenges his pre-conceived notions. Their relationship really is the entire film, while also being about loyalty to someone who is blindly being led astray themselves in a long train of unforgiving ignorance. Stevens though, is a character whose psyche just goes deeper and deeper, a well of misgivings and fraudulent narration, unreliable in his own emotions and the way the facts of the film are presented. You want him to rendezvous with the one he longs for, but he is tethered by the belief that he has a grand purpose, and if he doesn't see it through than his entire life has been wasted. Next to Random Harvest this is the saddest film I have ever seen, because it rallies around an idea as old as time, and then doesn't see it to fruition. It's about longing, love, manipulation, and the callous reality that a life worth living is not expected to always be great. I find this film, and the book it is based off of, to be beautiful and poignant in its tender recognition of humanity. Though I don't agree with some decisions by the screenwriter and director, I do agree that this was a film that was difficult to put together, as there was first person narration in the book and none here. It really was a film that achieved on a level unexpected, and stayed heart warming throughout.
Super Reviewer
June 4, 2011
While the movie was full of excellent performances, the story itself didn't leave an impression strong enough on me (yeah, again expectations were high, thanks to IMDb ratings). Besides, the execution wasn't effective enough to keep me glued to the movie. If anything was done quite right, it was the casting of the movie. That's what made this 2+ hours journey tolerable for me.
Super Reviewer
½ April 29, 2011
I am a sucker for starched-collar, buttoned-down romance, and this movie is pretty much the definition of that. Also, it has old people. I LOVE old people love stories. Ishiguro I'm not too crazy about, but I can forgive him.
Super Reviewer
½ July 13, 2010
A masterfully acted, well told story featuring an unassuming butler (Anthony Hopkins) who remembers back to the time when he began to discover disturbing new things about the master (James Fox) he had served for many, many years. Although admittedly slow-paced, this film is largely fascinating due to the main plot concerning Nazi sympathizers. The movie also adeptly explores an important trait in loyalty - all with a magnetic and versatile actor in Anthony Hopkins leading the way. Both Hopkins and Emma Thompson (as another worker at the house who finds Hopkins' both attractive and infuriating) give outstanding turns, and the movie also ends on a satisfying note. What I love most about this film is that it never betrays us with the way it covers its characters, they stay true to form and never feel artificial for one moment.
Super Reviewer
½ April 10, 2007
A movie that can turn something as eventless and boring as the working life of domestic servants (no offence to any butlers or housekeepers who may read this), into an engaging and compelling drama, certainly deserves a round of applause. Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson are both at their very best here, and this film wouldn't be half as good as it was without their fantastic performances. Maybe not the kind of movie I'd want to see more than once, but good and quite memorable nonetheless.
Super Reviewer
½ November 13, 2008
"A man cannot call himself work contented, until he has done all he can, to be of service to his employer." ~Mr. Stevens

Emma Thompson and Anthony Hopkins reunite in this movie after Howards End. Mr. Stevens (Anthony Hopkins) is a butler and an institution by himself at Darlington Hall. See how he goes by his life day by day amist whats going on inside the Manor, and get to know the other characters perspective of the dear ol' butler.

I thought this was a powerful, thought provoking film. Theres too much "essence" in this film that Ill just have to decline in even trying to tackle the things in it.

I think this movie is quite close to home for some of those people that serve their life as a house help and for those who do have the knowledge and priviledge of what its like to have highly devoted and excelent help. This movie reminds me of my beloved nanny Leizel.

*Yeah ok its not a proper review - cant be arsed to write anything properly these days. I still say go ahead and watch it, then tell me what you thought of it.
Super Reviewer
June 14, 2008
Movie about an English country home just prior to World War II and it's occupants. Great cast.
Super Reviewer
½ June 24, 2007
A very slow, rather boring period drama. Where not a lot happens in a country house in the period leading up to the war.
Super Reviewer
½ June 23, 2007
Flawless performances by Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson amidst a plot that is both personal and political. This is an important movie if ever there was one.

The broken narrative is not the directorial choice I would have made, but it doesn't really have much of an effect on the rest of the movie. Powerful, turbulent and effective, Remains of the Day is an A-class drama.
Super Reviewer
April 15, 2007
Well, what can I say about this? I love the novel, and when I heard that there was a film too, my immediate reaction was much like that for the Perfume film: "Oh yay!!...but how the hell are they going to film it when it's so subtle in places?
So, of course, I was inevitably disappointed when I watched this. It looks absolutely beautiful and very authentic, but I didn't like the changes made, no matter how small they were (some were even out of keeping with the characters). I wondered at first whether Hopkins was a good choice for Stevens, but the longer you see him in the role the more natural and acceptable it becomes.
Like his performance, once you get in to the film you begin to warm up to it, or it begins to improve. I liked that quotes from Stevens' first person narration were put into the dialogue, and all actors do suprisingly well once you get over the initial 'shock' of seeing them in the role ( 'It's Hugh Grant', was all I could think of for a while after his first appearance...)

In truth, this was a very difficult book to film faithfully, so I don't know whether to be impressed at what they managed to achieve, or disappointed, thinking that it could've been done even better.
Super Reviewer
January 14, 2007
One of the Best Anthony Hopkins Merchant/Ivory movies
Super Reviewer
½ September 1, 2006
We studied this for our summer exam in film studies. I think i was one of the only ones in my class who enjoyed this film
Super Reviewer
½ February 21, 2014
Hopkins' portrayal of the loyal butler who never has his chance to express genuine emotion or expression until later in life is marvelous. Truly touching.
Cameron W. Johnson
Super Reviewer
½ August 15, 2012
What happens when you get Hannibal Lecter, Nanny McPhee, Superman, Charles from "Four Weddings and a Funeral" and Ben Chaplin as a guy named Charlie (I really hope they did that on purpose) in a film together? Something not quite as exciting as it sounds, unless, of course, you take into consideration that this is a Merchant Ivory film, in which case, it's about as exciting as you would expect it to be: not terribly. Well, it sure seemed to thrill critics, though it's a shame it had the misfortune of coming out the same year as "Schindler's List", which was even more overlong, slow and old fashion, so much so that it was actually primarily in black-and-white. If you get provocative, slow period pieces and a few dirt-old filmmaking sensibilities, then you're pretty much a shoe in for critical acclaim. Hey, as much as the film stands to be better, it's still pretty undeniably elegant, which of course shows that Hugh Grant can be classy (Yeah, sure) and that Christopher Reeve was way more than just Superman, which sadly didn't stop him from getting stuck with that title. As for Ben Chaplin, I wouldn't so much say that he was so much succumbing to people's common misconceptions by playing a guy named Charlie as much as he diving in, because lord knows his birthname wasn't Chaplin and that when you're an aspiring English performer lucky enough to have your mother's maiden name be Chaplin, you're not likely to turn down a name change, as that's going to bring in quite a few role offers. Well, he certainly knows how to pick some good ones, or at least potentially good ones, for although this film is enjoyable, it gets to be too elegant for its own good.

Okay, now, with all of my going on and on about this film being so slow, to my surprise and relief, the film really isn't terribly slow, yet it does still hit those points quite often, rarely, if ever to point of leaving the film to dull out, but definately to where the film's momentum plummets, and with it, engagement value. Of course, maybe this film would have its slow points if it didn't give them plenty of time to creep their way in, as one of the most prevalent flaws with this film is simply that it is just too blasted long. At nearly fifteen minutes shy of a whopping two-and-a-half hours, the film sounds too long, considering its story, and is exactly that, dragging its feet from one place to another, going padded out by repetition, as well as much filler that distances the film from substance for an extended period of time and leaves you to, with the substance, fall out of the film momentarily, especially during points in which the film, almost in a montage-esque fashion, showcases the unraveling of certain events to obnoxiously gratuitous urgent-seeming score work, an event that's overlong and overbearing the first time, yet returns oh so many times throughout the film. Still, with all of the moments in the film that expel your attention, it's not like your investment is all that firmly locked in, because, as I said, the film gets to be too elegant for its own good, not just to where it slows down here and there and drags on consistently, but to where it takes so much restraint that, all too often, it restrains from bite, and that is just the thing that ruins this potentially fine effort. Don't get me wrong, the film has its fair share of effective moments, yet on the whole, there is a certain degree of emotional distance looming over the film's resonance, diluting conflict, intrigue and impact, thus leaving the film to fall limp, and your attention with it. As I said, the film picks up here and there, yet it gets to those points all too steadily, outstaying its welcome and tossing in the occasional slow spots, made all the worse by hazed emotional resonance, until, after a while, the film finds that it has fallen limp more than picked up, and just enough to finally fall beneath genuinely good. However, the film's collapse is not much more than by a hair, because for every miss, there is a hit, and just enough for the film to ultimately stand as worth watching, and I do mean "watching", as it's not too shabby on the eyes.

Now, in total honesty, one of the best pieces of photography pertaining to this film is probably the poster (Ooh, shiny Anthony Hopkins), yet there is a ceaseless grace within Tony Pierce-Roberts' cinematography, broken up by occasions of lighting that are truly breathtaking. The film is a visually striking piece, with fine art direction to compliment the production designs, which are dazzling yet far from overbearing, bringing to life the environment, and by extension, atmosphere of the world found within this story that deserves more than what can be provided by director James Ivory, who keeps his distance and restraint, to the detriment to this film, as many of his directorial efforts fall limp and betray the story's worthiness, of which, there is plenty, and just enough for you to still lock in just fine. Ivory does little to spark essence into this story, yet that's largey why the story does leave something of an impression, for although Ivory neglects to raise the intrigue of the film, he also manages to avoid diluting the film's intrigue with a lot of faulty moves or incompetence, thus making the film's tone more slave to the story than the actual execution, and while all of this slowness and dragging keeps the story from really picking up all that often, when the story does pick up, you feel it, certainly not as much as you would have if James Ivory put some blasted effort into the atmosphere, yet enough so that you can stick with the story, and with it, the film itself. Outside of that, the film owes much of its standing its ground to Anthony Hopkins, who has little to do, yet purposefully so. The James Stevens character is a willing slave to his work, seeking to get the job done and keep things in order while keeping as emotionally distant as he can, which of course leaves his humanity to take severe damage and himself to find much potential in his life squandered, thus making for a character that, in concept, presents quite a bit of material, only to go tainted by screenwriters Ruth Prawer Jhabvala's writing the role to be too broad, with limited depth and layers, and by extension, material for Hopkins to work with. However, come on, this is Anthony Hopkins we're talking about, and although his material is thin to the point of leaving him with little to play up, he stays faithful to the slickness of the James Stevens character with a smooth believability and charisma, and when material does finally present itself, needless to say, Hopkins delivers, providing subtle depth and sharp expressiveness that captures both the distance and humanity within Steven, into whom Hopkins gives us somber insight that defines our lead as a flawed human, noble spirit and compelling lead in a film that very often relies on him. Now, being that its story and subject matter is so minimalist, the film never stood much of a chance being especially upstanding, yet still deserves better than what it is given, though what good things it is given really do strike in a small but far-reaching fashion that gives this film the intrigue and depth that the key filmmakers can't hold together enough for the film to reward, yet the other talents who construct and carry this film can hold together just enough for the film to keep you going through and through.

At the end of the day, remains and all, the film has its slow spots, which are bound to be found amidst the film's ceaseless steadiness, spawned largely from considerable looseness that leaves the film to drag on, going plagued by repetition and filler that slows down the film's momentum, though not as much as James Ivory's emotionally distant direction, which leaves resonance to often fall limp and the final product to ever so unfortunately collapse as underwhelming, yet still stand as watchable, boasting fine art direction and sharp production designs that spark certain life into the story, which is strong enough to hold your attention all its own, though not without the help of a perhaps too restrained yet charismatic, occasionally subtly deep and altogether rather compelling lead performance by Anthony Hopkins, who helps in making "The Remains of the Day" the enjoyable and occasionally effective film that it is, even if it should be more than just workmanlike.

2.5/5 - Fair
Super Reviewer
½ July 23, 2010
If you are a fan of the Merchant Ivory works, this is one of their best. With a standout cast, a crisply written story, and some very interesting human drama, it draws you in and never lets go. Anthony Hopkins is flawless in his portrayal of Stevens, and Emma Thompson makes a great counterpoise to his character. There's no action, per se, but there's a lot of layers of human emotion here from the James Fox as Lord Darlington all the way down to the individual housemaids. I wish my dining room looked that good!
Super Reviewer
June 27, 2012
Remarkable acting and a compelling story that stays interesting due to Hopkins' performance as a schizoid butler who struggles to continue his work without being hindered by romance or conscience, during the years of British appeasement to the growing Nazi powers that be in Europe.
Super Reviewer
June 26, 2009
This story focuses on two interesting characters, excellently played by Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson. The story itself is rather insipid though, but manages to hold the interest up thanks to a few thoughtful subjects.
Super Reviewer
½ August 22, 2006
Interesting to see the workings of an aristocratic home and the doings of its servants, but that's it. everything else seems false, contrived and shoe-horned in.
Super Reviewer
½ April 1, 2008
'The Remains of the Day' is indeed, a romance, but it is layered over such a range of topical issues to label it so abruptly would be an injustice to a marvellous sociological study. It is neither simple nor overtly romantic, but explores the blurred ambiguities between lines of good and evil, love and hate. The film is a series of flashbacks that observe the going-ons in Darlington Manor in the early 1930's, where butler Mr Stevens and housekeeper Miss Kenton, in between undertaking duties and keeping their heads beneath the occuring political talks, begin to fall in love. Emma Thompson and Anthony Hopkins are magnificent as the couple who repress their feelings for the sake of work, and the exemplary screenplay ensures they deliver on equal levels of believablity - her desperation and need for love uncover slowly and maturely as in reality, and his inability to express emotion, almost in any form, becomes a source of frustration even for himself. They have expert chemistry, providing scenes of intensity, thought and darkly amusing humour to highlight the growth of their relationship. The film also has quality production values, the bold score and elegant costume and sets really enhancing the authenticity of the era. The film captures how decision is always confusing, and only with hindsight can we realise the horror or sincere futility of our mistakes, however good or well-meaning our intentions once were. The director understands the complexities of human nature, and the ending - while almost falling into a dreaded trap and dragging for barely moments too long - highlights this complete sense of waste, regret and remorse a single choice can make of a lifetime. The film is subtle, intelligent and cares enough for its characters to deliver one of the best portraits of human behaviour I have seen in cinema. As a romance, it excels, but as an intense, human drama, it reaches the heights of greatness.
Super Reviewer
½ January 5, 2008
Thematically strong, as it makes the audience question what choices they will make regarding what remains of one's life. The brilliant symbolism as well as the ending suggests that there are no easy answers.
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