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At the magnificent English estate of Darlington Hall, Stevens (Anthony Hopkins) is the head butler who takes pride in serving Lord Darlington (James Fox) and maintaining the manor with absolute decorum. When he hires spirited new housekeeper Miss Kenton (Emma Thompson), the duty bound butler denies his feelings for her while turning a blind eye to his master's controversial dealings with the Germans. Only a reunion with Miss Kenton decades later under a new master (Christopher Reeve) offers the chance of unbottling his repressed emotions. 

Review by Shannon J. Harvey:
Oh to live at Darlington Hall! Breakfast at eight. Lunch at noon. Dinner at a respectable hour. Where the breathtaking gardens greet you before the opulent estate. Where upstairs and downstairs never meet. Where not even a hair is out of place. This Merchant-Ivory masterpiece from 1988 is an exquisite all-round production. The script by Prawar Jhabvala, adapting Kazuo Ishiguro's superb novel, could keep even a bratty teen enraptured. The cinematography by Tony Pierce-Roberts is a feast for the eyes. The music by Richard Robbins is appropriately becalming. The direction from James Ivory is warm, rich and smooth. And the performances are career best from Fox, Thompson and especially Hopkins, who seems born to play Stevens as much as Hannibal the Cannibal.

It would be nothing, of course, without a story, and Jhabvala never betrays the importance of the book's backdrop; crumbling life in a crumbling empire, and the way people - no matter what class - must live with the lies they tell themselves. The book's structure is kept nicely in place too, flashing back in time as Stevens takes a drive in the country and remembers his encounters with Miss Kenton, his father's death, Lord Darlington's meetings with heads of state, and an eager journalist's (Hugh Grant) attempt to get the story out of him. This parade of repressed feelings and romantic longing is arguably the best British film of the decade, and Columbia has paid its respects with a dignified two-disc special edition with a host of extras. Firstly, the film is replicated beautifully with 5.1 sound and widescreen vision. There is a full-length commentary with Ivory, Merchant and a quick-witted Emma Thompson, who engage well together, exchanging anecdotes about the production, the disparity of location shots, casting decisions and cinematography. On disc two is an equally informative behind-the-scenes documentary, which includes new interviews with Hopkins (who never pictured himself as the butler), a wheelchair-bound Reeves (who at the premiere of Howard's End begged Merchant and Ivory to cast him in their next collaboration) and Thompson (who prides herself on keeping the knighted Hopkins humble). There's a little gushing, but perhaps in this case it's justified.

Quite oddly, Columbia have included a 15-minute featurette on the appeasement policy of the 1930s and it's impact on the unsuspecting English middle class. A more worthwhile 1993 HBO featurette follows, which serves as good comparison between what the actors thought of their characters now and then, and delves into the intriguing Merchant-Ivory collaboration. The features rounds off with six significant scene deletions (each with Ivory's optional commentary), cast and crew filmographies and the original trailer. As it's title suggests, The Remains of the Day leaves Mr Stevens and Miss Kenton picking up the pieces of their lives when it's too late. Like the kiss they never share, all they are left with is regret. Amazing, then, that there's a romance you will never forget.

Published November 13, 2003

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(UK) - 1993

CAST: Anthony Hopkins, Ben Chaplin, Caroline Hunt, Christopher Reeve, Emma Thompson, Hugh Grant, James Fox, John Haycraft, Paula Jacobs, Peter Vaughan

DIRECTOR: James Ivory

RUNNING TIME: 130 mins

PRESENTATION: widescreen 2:35:1; Dolby Digital 5.1

SPECIAL FEATURES: Director and Producer Commentary with Emma Thompson, Exclusive Documentary: The Filmmaker's Journey, Exclusive Featurette: Blind Loyalty, Hollow Honour - England's Fatal Flaw, HBO Making of Featurette, Deleted Scenes, Filmographies, Trailer

DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Columbia TriStar Entertainment

DVD RELEASE: November 12, 2003

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