film 7 of 7

Remains of the Day

Draft Review by Dean Duncan May 21, 2015

Very elusive, these Merchant/Ivory things, and as it eluded at first I was thinking overly of how it differed from the book and whether the differences were good, instead of why they were there; everything’s sumptuous as usual, & subtle (though amazingly the book’s even more so), the upstairs/downstairs dynamic is very interestingly and expertly rendered, the scene when the soon to leave Miss Kendall breaks down & Stevens tells her about some little domestic arrangement is superb (it’s too simple to say he’s emotionally impotent and can’t say goodbye, because he is saying goodbye), politics are brought up in the mix, which makes explicit the parallels between well-meaning but clueless master and man; at first this disturbs—part of the book’s pop comes from the fact that Stevens never quite realizes the price of all this duty over feeling, what he’s done & what he’s missed;

The difference in this film adaptation is that the first person voice in Ishiguro’s novel opens up into an authorial/directorial omniscience, or at least semi-omniscience, & the result is finally that the character’s as vividly drawn because of Hopkins (especially fine when his Dad tells the tiger story at table—anxiety, propriety & satisfaction flash across his face, each mood instantaneous and complete—& in the whole final section, when he realizes that he’s almost made up for lost time, then it all slips away; it’s very quiet and very devastating), & his failure resonates a little more, because it’s personal and symbolic; by the end it’s all come together and satisfied pretty completely