In the entracte between world wars, Stevens (Anthony Hopkins) is the perfect English butler at the estate of the politically-inclined Lord Darlington (James Fox). Stevens’s obsessively dutiful, thoroughly unsentimental way of life is challenged with the arrival of the new housekeeper Miss Kenton (Emma Thompson), who is as spirited as she is capable. Stevens’s myopic worldview, his unequivocal loyalty to his master, comes to blows with Miss Kenton’s sense of moral outrage as Lord Darlington is made an unwitting Nazi pawn. While England wavers between “peace in our time” appeasement and war against Hitler, Darlington Hall becomes the fulcrum upon which the fate of the continent rests and Stevens, who has spent his adult life more concerned with attending to his master than with attending to his own personal happiness, begins to awaken to the possibility of a relationship with Miss Kenton. —Merchant Ivory Productions
Thanks to the content of his films, American director James Ivory has spent much of his long career being mistaken for an Englishman. Few filmmakers have been more closely associated with a particular type of genre than Ivory and his longtime collaborator, producer Ismail Merchant. The very mention of the hyphenate Merchant-Ivory effortlessly conjures up heavily stylized images of Edwardian England, replete with stiff upper lips, effete aristocrats, and young women confined by both corsets and repressed desire. However, although much of Ivory’s reputation has been built on his E.M. Forster-adapted period dramas, he has also earned considerable respect for the insightful examinations on the interplay of different cultures inherent in almost all of his work — particularly his earlier films about India — and his and Merchant’s ability to make quality films on a minimal budget.
Born in Berkeley, California, on June 7, 1928, Ivory grew up in Klamath Falls, Oregon, where his father… read more
The heartbreaking repression of duty vs. emotion, the gentle elegance of the story, & the knockout performance by the cast make for a wonderful and quite beautiful-looking film. Not to mention the historical pre-WWII backdrop provides added interest along the main "love story." Note: This film will remain in my memory for one significant side-note: I was watching the film when I found out that Roger Ebert passed away
A touching retro drama about the ruin of a life as well as of a whole epoque. Nothing remains of Stephens' day since there is no room for private life: neither for a sympathy for his father, nor for a relationship with Miss Kenton. Lord Darlinglon's shameful escapism marks in its turn the end of civilized imperial policy. A beautiful, subtle and exquisite picture about frustration of personal and social illusions.