The Remains of the Day (1993)

This adaptation of Kazuo Ishiguro’s Booker-winning novel about a repressed and dutiful butler continued the Merchant-Ivory team’s run of handsome, awards-laden period pieces.

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“Nothing that Mr Merchant, Mr Ivory and Ms Jhabvala have done before has the psychological and political scope and the spare authority of this enchantingly realized film.”
Vincent Canby, The New York Times, 1993

British cinema in the 1980s and early 1990s was defined by an American director, an Indian producer and a German-born screenwriter: James Ivory, Ismail Merchant and Ruth Prawer Jhabvala respectively. They were nearing the end of their commercial reign when they brought to the screen Kazuo Ishiguro’s story of the unexpressed affection between Mr Stevens (Anthony Hopkins) – head butler at an English stately home shortly before World War II – and housekeeper Miss Kenton (Emma Thompson).

But the film finds them at the peak of their powers, the fragile almost-love between the main characters explored with heartbreaking delicacy. There’s notable support too from Peter Vaughan, who almost steals the movie as Mr Stevens’s father, a fellow butler who must work under his son.

Among the trio’s other collaborations is Howards End (1992). In 2010, Ishiguro’s novel Never Let Me Go was adapted by screenwriter Alex Garland and director Mark Romanek.

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