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The Remains of the Day Reviews

THE REMAINS OF THE DAY is yet another quietly intense, dignified period drama from the producing-directing-writing team of Ismail Merchant, James Ivory, and Ruth Prawer Jhabvala. Though it offers a host of fine performances in a smoothly crafted, adult drama of unfulfilled love, it lacks the cumulative dramatic impact of the team's best work. During the 1930s, Miss Kenton (Emma Thompson) is hired by Lord Darlington (James Fox), as is the elderly Stevens (Peter Vaughan), who has spent his life in service. Darlington's perfect butler, the younger Stevens (Anthony Hopkins), attempts to cover for his father's failing abilities, but Miss Kenton points out the dangers of the older man's continuing on. Stevens reacts with scorn, yet the repressed butler also begins to develop deeper feelings for Miss Kenton, as does she for him. Their painfully repressed relationship is played out against the backdrop of world affairs, as Darlington becomes involved with Nazism while trying to keep England out of WWII. As with many of this team's other films, THE REMAINS OF THE DAY is intelligently and respectfully faithful to its prestigious source, in this case Kazuo Ishiguro's Booker Prize-winning novel. Though the film teeters dangerously close to what lurks just beyond the edge of many Merchant-Ivory productions--camp--its telling vignettes are adroitly sketched, Tony Pierce-Roberts' luscious cinematography is quietly expressive, and the acting lends freshness and urgency to a drama which could have been just so much highbrow soap.