peteg's blog - noise - movies - 2009 12 09 RemainsOfTheDay

The Remains of the Day

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I had to see this after identifying Emma Thompson as the lustrous lawyer of In the Name of the Father. The inoffensively poetic title had me rapt too.

Thompson is fine, albeit labouring with a quite limited character. Similarly Hopkins has the tricky task of portraying an almost entirely characterless man. Some time in the first half I realised that the art of this movie is in starting with promise and sliding into emptiness, a sort of anti-character development.

The thematic seam is rich, with everyone and everything on the wrong side of history. The moral superiority of the upper classes is severely questioned, as are the ideas of an ethically servile underclass and gentlemanly international relations post World War I. The Nazi-sympathiser stuff is clunky, and I could imagine the book doing a much better job there.

Overall I found it dreary, more a piece of well-executed art than anything especially inventive. Sometimes the sentimentality became too much. Also I got lost in the temporal gap: what happened to the couple in the seaside town after they moved away from the house? — a daughter, sure, but what did they do for money? What became of their boarding house aspiration?

Perhaps sadly, while I can see that Ishiguro almost certainly did a better job with this material than this movie did, I have no great interest in revisiting it.