The Remains of the Day (1993)

<strong class="MovieTitle">The Remains of the Day</strong> (1993)

(On Cable TV, January 2019) Anyone who starts a steady movie-watching program should be careful about scheduling and the danger of oversaturation. Watching too much of the same thing, especially if it’s not your proverbial cup of tea, is a recipe for disliking (or at least not caring for) some perfectly decent films. Or at least that’s the way I feel about The Remains of the Day, a smart, well-executed film that nonetheless feels like the same thing as countless other films. Clearly a Merchant Ivory production, it focuses on the stiff-lipped inner turmoil of a super-competent housekeeper as he struggles with what he wants compared to what is expected to him. It’s a very British drama, nearly to the point of parody as it studies the end of the servitude era and presents its protagonist as the last of his breed, to his own detriment as it condemns him to stay alone and detached. Adapted from a Kazuo Ishiguro novel, it does have interludes about the fascist tendencies of the British aristocracy, heavy romantic drama, convincing period details (such as ironing a newspaper). Still, I didn’t feel much love for the result, and I suspect that this isn’t due as much to the qualities of the film itself, but having seen too many similar stiff-upper-lip British downstairs drama films in a short period of time, with Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson playing more or less their own archetypical personas. I suspect that revisiting The Remains of the Day (which, to be fair, is slow-paced and almost requires an undergraduate degree in early-twentieth-century English history to follow) later on would end up in a more favourable assessment.

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