Acting talent alone does not ensure a great film, but when you have a lineup like, "Howard's End", creating a bad film would be a chore. Anthony Hopkins, Emma Thompson, Vanessa Redgrave, Helena Bonham Carter, and Joseph Bennett are just the start of a phenomenal cast that brings this EM Forrester story to the screen. When you then have the duo of Merchant and Ivory together with all the talent they attract to create these period pieces, the result is always special. Some of their films are better than others, but all are very worthwhile.
This film explores the results of reasonably small human actions that are greatly magnified, either through indifference or emotions that take control of common sense and a reasoned response to a given plight. The events and the consequences are exacerbated as the players come from 3 very different strata of London Society. And in this tale the three not only meet, they mix, and the results are dramatic at the very least, and tragic at their worst. The differing groups even join when Emma Thompson marries in to the highest level leaving her sister in the middle, while she, Helena Bonham Carter, insists on crashing every convention when she champions the cause of a poor couple whose plight she blames on her new in-laws. The relationship between the sisters that begins the film as warm and humorous, becomes strained, damaged, and nearly severed before the film's end.
This is one of the richer Merchant and Ivory productions as it is not confined to a few picturesque homes, but is expanded to include vast cityscapes full of period transportation people and their costumes. This is not my favorite film they have done, but is certainly excellent when compared to films in general, and very good for this remarkable team of filmmakers.