This excellent film is probably best described as subtle elegance. Framed in the present, the movie deals with the lives inside an English country home just prior to World War II. Reunited with the filmmakers from Howards End
are Emma Thompson as Miss Kenton, the head housekeeper, and Anthony Hopkins as Stevens, the impeccable butler. The bittersweet story centers on Stevens and his dedication to his master, Lord Darlington (a suitably officious and slyly pompous James Fox). Stevens summarizes: "I don't believe a man can consider himself fully content until he has done all he can to be of service to his employer." Enveloping Stevens's world are the pending war with Germany, Darlington's horribly misguided interests in said war, and, most effectively, his relationship with Miss Kenton. Stevens is the very essence of repression, but as played by Hopkins he is neither piteous nor self-righteous. Like his master, Stevens becomes misguided in his loyalties, although his is an emotional deprivation, possibly condemning him to lifelong regret. There's so much going on in this film, and yet the action is skillfully depicted through understanding and knowing glances, through emotions expressed only through eye contact. Like other Merchant-Ivory-Ruth Prawer Jhabvala collaborations, this film is sumptuous to look at, capturing the period effectively and affectingly. Jhabvala respectfully adapts from the Kazuo Ishiguro novel. Excellent in supporting roles are Christopher Reeve, Ben Chaplin, and Hugh Grant. --N.F. Mendoza
Emma Thompson, Anthony Hopkins, Hugh Grant, Christopher Reeve. In this story of blind devotion and repressed love, a proper English butler becomes caught in the crossfire of world events and swirling passions. 1993/color/134 min/PG/widescreen.