Remains of the Day (1993) – James Ivory (Friday’s Finest)


Stevens: In my philosophy, Mr. Benn, a man cannot call himself well-contented until he has done all he can to be of service to his employer. Of course, this assumes that one’s employer is a superior person, not only in rank, or wealth, but in moral stature.

Remains of the Day is an American British drama based on the novel of the same name by Nobel prize winning author Kazuo Ishiguro. It currently sits at number 4 on my all time favourite movie list. In my opinion Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson give their career best performances here. It contains my favourite acting from any one movie. I have also seen this movie more times than any other movie. I’m in love with this movie. Fullstop.

IMDB Storyline: Rule bound head butler Stevens’ (Sir Anthony Hopkins’) world of manners and decorum in the household he maintains is tested by the arrival of housekeeper Miss Kenton (Dame Emma Thompson), who falls in love with him in pre-World War II Britain. The possibility of romance and his master’s cultivation of ties with the Nazi cause challenge his carefully maintained veneer of servitude.

It figures here in Friday’s Finest because when critics and public alike cite great cinema classics Remains fails to get a mention. It’s also a real shame that young audiences are by and large unfamiliar of its existence. I understand the solemn and restrained performances and the seriousness of the plot could be off putting to some, but to me it remains the best story of unrequited love in cinema history.

The excerpt below of sdillon’s IMDB movie review of Remains of the Day reflects my own sentiments regarding the picture, but I was so impressed by the manner he expressed them:

It’s a masterpiece of understated emotion. Stevens (Anthony Hopkins) absurdly repressed personality gently takes the audience from laughter to tears in the most emotionally devastating finale I have ever seen. Remains effortlessly embraces complex themes such as misguided loyalty, dignity, pride, wasted lives, and unrequited love. It would be all too much to bear if it weren’t for the film’s genuine good-humoured understanding of English culture. In fact, humour is an important element in the film. There are many laugh-out-loud moments, which make the tragic part of the story all the more real and poignant. All in all, The Remains of the Day is a milestone film; an unforgettable tragedy of a man who pays the terrible price of denying his own feelings.

IMDB Trivia about Remains of the Day:

  • Sir Anthony Hopkins, as a guest on Inside the Actors Studio (1994), said that he got tips on how to play a butler from real-life butler Cyril Dickman, who served for fifty years at Buckingham Palace. The butler said there was nothing to being a butler, really, when you’re in the room, it should be even more empty.
  • The part of Miss Kenton (Dame Emma Thompson) is one of only three movie roles for which Meryl Streep has ever been turned down.
  • This movie was nominated for eight Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Screenplay Adapted from Another Medium, Best Original Music Score, Best Costume Design, Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, but the movie failed to win an Oscar in any of these categories.

“The more I live, the more I learn. The more I learn, the more I realize, the less I know.”- Michel Legrand

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Posted in Movies and TV
15 comments on “Remains of the Day (1993) – James Ivory (Friday’s Finest)
  1. The book was great. Never saw the movie though. Will now.

  2. I’m ashamed to admit I’ve never seen this film. I’ve heard great things about it, of course, and I like understated cinema, but I don’t generally care for romantic films. However, knowing that this is your fourth favorite film and reading in your review about Nazi involvement, I’m reminded of “The English Patient,” another film that I didn’t think I’d like but that I love. Thanks to you, I’m resolved to watch The Remains of the Day.

    • You don’t care for romantic films, but you were enamored with la la Land. I’m not comparing ‘Remains’ with La la Land, but it’s not your typical romance movie. Do you like period pieces? The Nazi backstory in this is fascinating. I hope you like it.

      • I can count on one hand how many romantic films I like. Same thing with musicals. I think that’s why La La Land resonated so much with me. It is the beautiful exception. There are other exceptions too. I love Cabaret. I love The Way We Were.
        I like period pieces just fine, but I don’t seek them out, per say. However, I am hopelessly intrigued by WWII.
        I’ll let you know about Remains of the Day. From your description, I expect I will.

      • I suppose I am also nit-picky about the romance genre. I haven’t seen those other films you mentioned. I’ll put them on my watch-list. But please tell me you liked ‘Casablanca’?! Haha.

      • I did. But not as much as everybody else did. I much prefer The Maltese Falcon, The Big Sleep. Also Key Largo and In a Lonely Place. But that’s me. Noir is my thing. Ha!

      • Yes, I have noticed your penchant for Noir film. Hehe. I hope you’ve had a good weekend. Cheers.

  3. selizabryangmailcom says:

    One of my favorites too, but I haven’t seen it as many times as you, lol. I’d also have to find time alone to watch, as hubby will NOT stomach something like this. Too slow and emotional for him (although in the end, he DID come around to admitting he enjoyed Phantom Thread! He liked how dark it was and how weird Daniel D’s character was).

    Perfect description, though:”Remains effortlessly embraces complex themes such as misguided loyalty, dignity, pride, wasted lives, and unrequited love”–“wasted lives” being among the biggest ones, in my mind. Having huge regrets toward the end of one’s life isn’t a good thing. You can’t get time back. You can’t get any of that back.

    • For me there are just so many similarities between Phantom and Remains. And like Remains, I enjoy Phantom the more I watch it. I’ve seen it three times, but I already want to see it again. Remains I saw more times than I care to admit in my 20’s and 30’s. The last time I saw it was about 6 months ago and it was spectacular.
      Yeh, that posters description of Remains was just so well put. I couldn’t have done it justice like he did. The thing is we can’t be certain if Stevens in fact had any ‘huge’ regrets since he was so closed-off. Also he was so attached to his job and the castle, that perhaps a relationship with the former employee may not have been sustainable.
      Oh I meant to ask you, you mentioned TV captioning. Is that what you do in your day-day job?

  4. selizabryangmailcom says:

    Oh, I thought the way the movie opened (if I recall–it’s been a while) with Stevens driving out to see the woman he spurned and sort of lying about various things was the indicator that he had regrets.
    At any rate, I REALLY need to see it again. Just your talking about it is making me want to ditch work right now, stop at a Redbox or something, and get a copy.
    And, yes, captioning is my day job. I’m here all the time. It’s what drains my soul and life force little by little. There are much worse ways to make a living, but…I’ve been doing this way too long.
    You know, it’s funny. I even remember the day I saw Remains.. I went by myself to the Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica. You might have actually heard of that place, it’s sort of famous. It was a beautiful evening when I got out, probably in the fall. Maybe the holidays ’cause I remember pretty lights up everywhere on the promenade. My husband and a friend of his picked me up and I think we all had dinner while I floated around still inside the movie. It left quite an impression.

    • I think you’re correct. Mr Stevens says he’s trying to solve his staff shortage and also make amends for a grave error or words to that effect. He also states to Miss Kenton that his life will now only consist of work, work work and more work. It’s wonderful symbolism at the very end when he releases the bird from the games room and the camera pans away from the castle.

      It sounds like an interesting job – captioning, but I’m sorry to read that it saps too much time from your life. I suppose any job can do that if you’ve been doing it so long.

      How touching it was to read that you remember the day you saw ‘Remains’ and it had left an indelible mark. So sweet! And the pretty lights on the promenade reminiscent of the pretty lights switching on at the pier in the movie. Few movies have that effect on us, don’t they?

  5. selizabryangmailcom says:

    So very few, especially these days.

  6. # 4 on your list. You have my interest. I’ve seen a few Ivory films. Why not this one? Maybe time to watch it.

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