THE REMAINS OF THE DAY. (1993) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

THE REMAINS OF THE DAY. (1993) A MERCHANT-IVORY PRODUCTION. DIRECTED BY JAMES IVORY. BASED ON THE NOVEL BY KAZUO ISHIGURO. SCREENPLAY BY RUTH PRAWER JHABVALA.

STARRING ANTHONY HOPKINS, EMMA THOMPSON, JAMES FOX, HUGH GRANT, CHRISTOPHER REEVE, PETER VAUGHAN, PIP TORRENS, JOHN SAVIDENT, LENA HEADEY AND BEN CHAPLIN.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

This is an utterly gorgeous film, visually and in just about every way you can think of. It’s beautifully-scripted and acted and the shots of the sumptuous and luxurious Darlington Hall are breath-taking, though, interestingly enough, five or so English country houses were used in the filming of the magnificent hall.

The film is based on the best-selling novel by Kazuo Ishiguro. I have the loveliest memories of watching the film in the dying light of a sunny November day several winters in a row and I’ll probably always associate it with that time of year.

Anthony Hopkins turns in a masterful performance as Mr. James Stevens, butler to Lord Darlington of Darlington Hall in the England of the 1930s and 1940s. Stevens is the perfect butler. The consummate professional. Discreet, efficient, born to serve and, most importantly, putting his job above all else.

A real-life butler was consulted in the making of the film and apparently Anthony Hopkins asked him if he had any ‘tips’ on buttling. When a butler is in a room, the consultant advised, it must seem emptier than before. You could certainly say that of Mr. Stevens, the most unobtrusive butler imaginable.

His main goal in life seems to be to ease Lord Darlington’s passage through his life, to the point where he is willing to sacrifice his own chances of love and a family and a personal life of his own.

He clearly gets this devotion to duty from his stiff-upper-lipped elderly father, Mr. William Stevens, who ‘buttled’ his butt off his entire life and who, in fact, will die ‘buttling.’ Ooops. Spoiler alert, haha. Mr. Stevens the Elder is exquisitely played by the wonderful Peter Vaughan of PORRIDGE and A GHOST STORY AT CHRISTMAS fame.

There are two main storylines in the film. Stevens falls gradually in love with Emma Thompson’s younger housekeeper, the lively and spirited Miss Sarah ‘Sally’ Kenton, who is as good at her job as Stevens is. She doesn’t live for her job, however. She is quite amenable to the idea of love and all that goes with it.

Stevens, though, is so buttoned-up and used to keeping his feelings under strict control that he is unable to respond to her advances. She gives him chance after chance after chance to declare that he has feelings for her, but time out of number he fails the test. And he knows he’s failing, which is worse, but, despite the pain he’s causing to them both, he still can’t open up to her.

She eventually throws in the towel, and who could blame her, after he comes across her bawling her eyes out over him on the floor of her parlour. Unable to offer her so much as a crumb of comfort, unwilling even to help the sobbing woman to her feet, he makes some inconsequential remark about the maid’s failure to dust a certain alcove.

‘I knew you would wish to be informed about it,’ he says stiffly.

‘I’ll see to it, Mr. Stevens,’ she sniffles, heartbroken.

Mr. Stevens’s last chance for love flies up the parlour chimney and is gone forever…

The other- grimmer- storyline concerns Lord Darlington’s alleged ‘Nazi-sympathising’ and commitment to helping Germany re-arm and strengthen herself after her crushing defeat in World War One. The situation for England grows more and more serious as the war which seems inevitable to some draws nearer.

Lord Darlington’s watchwords are words like ‘fair play’ and ‘honour’ and doing right by the other fellow. He feels guilty, and almost personally responsible, for the Versailles Treaty that followed on after the First World War.

The Treaty crippled Germany and made her pay heavily, financially and otherwise, for her part in causing the war which killed so many people. She lost lands and monies and the right to re-armament.

She had to pay huge sums in reparations and her peoples were pretty bloody depressed for a long time afterwards. Lord Darlington foolishly wants to make this all up to Germany in the interests of so-called fair play.

Lord Darlington’s journalist godson, ably played by Hugh Grant, accuses Stevens of turning a blind eye to the well-meaning but misguided Lord Darlington’s turning the house into a base for Nazi operations in England. Stevens, however, would never dream of presuming to question his master’s actions. Talk about ‘ours not to reason why, ours but to do and die…’

It is only later in the film, when we see Stevens off on a motoring holiday en route to rectify past mistakes after the war, that we discover he may not have been entirely comfortable after all with what went on at Darlington Hall. At the very least, he sees it as something to keep quiet about.

There are so many highlights and key scenes in the film. Poor old Mr. Stevens Sr. falling with the heavy tray and Coronation Street’s Fred Elliott attending him as his doctor. Miss Kenton trying to wrestle Steven’s ‘dirty’ book out of his hands. Hugh Grant as Lord Darlington’s godson getting the birds and the bees talk from a mortified Stevens. ‘I always enjoy our little chats about nature,’ says Hugh Grant to a bemused butler.

 The opulence of Darlington Hall during the ill-fated international conference of 1936, and the major preparations below stairs for said conference. (The film really shows us how these fantastic old country houses were run behind the scenes. The image of the swan gliding along the water serenely while underneath the surface the feet paddle furiously comes to mind.) The heart-breaking scene at the bus-stop in the bucketing rain at the end. Oh God. Just thinking about it is causing me to tear up. Say no more…

This film is a thing of understated beauty, subtlety and delicacy. It is one of Anthony Hopkins’s and, indeed, of Emma Thompson’s finest ever performances, in my ever-so-humble-opinion, and that’s saying something. Together, they pack one hell of an emotional punch.

I must warn you before you watch it, you’ll need hankies. Lots of hankies. And fancy chocolates too and maybe a nice glass of white wine. Chilled to perfection and served the way Mr. Stevens himself would do it. It’s the kind of classy film that deserves a bit of effort being put into watching it. Any trouble you take over it will most certainly be worth it.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Vampirology. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

Her debut romantic fiction novel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books.

ABOUT A BOY (2002) and NOTTING HILL (1999): A DOUBLE REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

ABOUT A BOY (2002) and NOTTING HILL (1999): A DOUBLE REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

ABOUT A BOY. (2002) BASED ON THE BOOK BY NICK HORNBY. DIRECTED BY CHRIS WEITZ AND PAUL WEITZ.

STARRING HUGH GRANT, NICHOLAS HOULT, TONI COLETTE, RACHEL WEISZ, NATALIA TENA, ROSALIND KNIGHT AND VICTORIA SMURFIT.

NOTTING HILL. (1999) WRITTEN BY RICHARD CURTIS. DIRECTED BY ROGER MICHELL.

STARRING HUGH GRANT, JULIA ROBERTS, ALEC BALDWIN, RHYS IFANS, HUGH BONNEVILLE, TIM MCINNERNY, EMMA CHAMBERS, GINA MCKEE, DYLAN MORAN, JULIAN RHIND-TUTT AND MISCHA BARTON.

‘You don’t even have a kid, do you???’

‘They were singing, with their eyes closed…!’

‘But driving fast behind the ambulance was fantastic…!’

‘Look who’s coming round the bend, it’s Santa and his reindeer friends…!’

‘But let’s say that I’m wrong, and you’re right, and that there’s this whole world going on out there for Marcus that I’m not even aware of … what are you going to do about it?’

These two films go so well together. Hugh Grant, he of the floppy hair, expensive education and posh British accent, is the male lead in both films. In ABOUT A BOY, a truly uplifting, heartwarming and funny film, he plays Will Freeman. Will, in his own words, is an island. He is Ibiza. Let me explain.

Will kids himself that he’s happy as he is. He doesn’t have to work, living as he does off the royalties from a Christmas song his deceased father penned years ago. He spends his days watching television, listening to music and getting his hair cut.

Will lives alone in his fancy flat, togged out with all the mod cons. He sleeps with women but doesn’t let them get too close. He depends on no-one, and no-one depends on him. That’s the way he likes it, and that’s how he intends things to stay.

Until, one day, his new underhanded plan to use single mothers as an endless source of free sex and undying gratitude leads him to cross paths with Marcus Brewer, the troubled, lonely teenage son of Fiona Brewer, a suicidal vegetarian (I don’t think there’s a connection bewtween the two states, lol!). Fiona’s a member of local support group SPAT (Single Parents Alone Together!).

Marcus’s life is a bit shit at the moment, what with being bullied at school for being ‘uncool’ and having to deal with his mum’s depression and suicide attempts. Marcus takes to Will and latches on to him like a limpet.

Will is annoyed and irritated at first, then he realises that he can’t just walk away from Marcus the way he walks away from everything else. All of a sudden, he feels responsible for another human being, and the feeling won’t go away.

His decision to help Marcus out and stand up for him, against both the bullies and his well-meaning but misguided mother, will take both their lives into strange but exciting new places, including, for Will, straight into the arms of the truly drop-gorgeous Rachel Weisz, so in no way should he be complaining…!

Highlights include Fiona finding out that Marcus has been going round Will’s house every day after school (‘You go round his house every day after school?’) and being bought cool new trainers by Will (‘He bought you cool new trainers?’), and totally mistrusting Will’s motives.

There’s also Will and Marcus performing a show-stopping duet together at the school concert, and terrific comic actress Rosalind Knight making a cameo performance as Lindsey’s mum: ‘Shake your ass?/Sheik Yourass? Is he Moroccan?’ and ‘Are you a professional Santa? How lovely!’

In NOTTING HILL, Hugh Grant plays another Will; this time William Thacker who owns a travel bookshop in Notting Hill, London. He has a sort of on-off romance with Julia Roberts, who is basically playing herself.

She’s Anna Scott, a big famous Hollywood movie superstar whose face is literally everywhere, and she meets Old Floppy Hair when she strolls casually into his bookshop one day.

Hugh Grant falls head-over-heels in love with her straightaway, while Anna revels in spending some relaxing down-time with William because she can be herself with him, away from the glare of the cameras.

The cameras can’t do without their fix of Anna Scott for long, however, and so soon enough the paparazzi begin to intrude on her life with William to the point where William gets dumped, and none too ceremoniously, either, because Anna has a big famous obnoxious Hollywood boyfriend (played by Alec Baldwin) and a big famous Hollywood career, away from Notting Hill.

William’s thirty-something dinner party friends, his wacky sister Honey (played by the late Emma Chambers) and his zany housemate Spike (Rhys Ifans) end up having to persuade William that sometimes you have to take a chance on love. Even when the odds are stacked against you…

So, if Anna Scott can just get her priorities straight and see her way to dating, or even marrying, a non-Hollywood-superstar like Will Thacker, then we’ll be all set. Or will we…? The path of true love never did run too smooth, you know…!

Irish comedian Dylan Moran (BLACK BOOKS) has a very funny cameo in this as Rufus the thief, and I love the bit where William goes to visit Anna in her hotel but ends up being mistaken for her interviewer from HORSE AND HOUND magazine.

William: ‘Um, are there many horses in your new picture?’

Anna: ‘Erm, not many, as it’s, erm, set in outer space…!’

Classic stuff. A great laugh, if not as funny as ABOUT A BOY, and well worth your time during this, or any other, lockdown. Happy viewing.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

Her debut romantic fiction novel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books.