CALL OF DUTY

Anthony Hopkins in "The Remains of the Day"

It’s most kind of you to take this time and read the review. I am by no means an expert in film criticism, but I’m much obliged for sharing my humble view. I promise to do my utmost best. And if I have executed my job suitably, you should be able to judge whether this movie is worth a look. I, myself, could not remember as to why I have chosen to watch it, but by the end of it, I was thoroughly pleased to have done so.

Based on the novel by Kazuo Ishiguro, “The Remains of the Day” is about James Stevens (Anthony Hopkins), a dignified, dutiful butler in the English estate of Darlington. In the film, he recalls a crucial time in his service, circa 1930s, right before the second World War. He has hired a first-rate employee – a lovely Miss Kenton (Emma Thompson) in the role of the housekeeper. The woman proves to be sharp-eyed, confident, and poised. However, she can be outspoken when it comes to conduct and rules. And while this challenges his authority, Mister Stevens is secretly amused by her restrained rants.

Both staff members are in service of Lord Darlington, a good-hearted diplomat who is eager to mend Britain’s relationship with Germany after the first World War. During this time, the British lord invites international dignitaries to his home for a conference. He champions peace, which is really the most noble of goals. Why must Germany be harshly penalized indeed when it barely recovers from its faltering economy? Britain must forgive and let bygones be bygones.

The butler Stevens has no political leanings, but he knows of the importance of the event. He might not partake in war discussions, but in keeping the estate in its tip-top shape, he is, in his own way, changing the course of history. It is his duty, a call which he takes in all seriousness. Even when death claims a close relative, Stevens stubbornly attends to his master and his guests before dealing with his own affairs. His dedication, while highly admirable, do come at a price. And I surmise that Stevens is not even aware of this at the start. He seems to be a man stupefied by his feelings.

The role is difficult to portray and yet, Sir Anthony Hopkins is acutely perfect as the butler. He is not stereotypically stiff or puffing with arrogance. His Stevens is obsessed with servitude and refined manners. While the man lack a vivacious personality, Hopkins is unafraid to play him internally and it makes the character more curiously tragic. I would not be surprised if some viewers will find him a bore. I suspect that you must drive some considerable mileage in life to understand his journey. As we mature, sometimes a twinge of nostalgia swells as the beloved past grows distant in our rear view mirrors.

“The Remains of the Day” is beautifully photographed and exquisitely produced by Merchant-Ivory team. From its top-notch acting to its exquisite production values, it has admirably performed its duty well and I’m blessed to have benefited from its service.

Grade: A

CAST
Anthony Hopkins
Emma Thompson
James Fox
Christopher Reeve
Hugh Grant
Ben Chaplin
Based on the novel by
Kazuo Ishiguro
Written by
Ruth Prawer Jhabvala
Directed by
James Ivory
Rated PG
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