The Remains of the Day (film)

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The Remains of the Day
Remains of the day.jpg
Theatrical-release poster
Directed byJames Ivory
Produced by
Screenplay by
Based onThe Remains of the Day
1989 novel
by Kazuo Ishiguro
Music byRichard Robbins
CinematographyTony Pierce-Roberts
Edited byAndrew Marcus
Color processTechnicolor
Distributed byColumbia Pictures
Release date
  • 5 November 1993 (1993-11-05)
Running time
134 minutes
  • United Kingdom[1]
  • United States[1]
Budget$15 million
Box office$63.9 million[2]

The Remains of the Day is a 1993 British-American drama film adapted from the Booker Prize-winning 1989 novel of the same name by Kazuo Ishiguro. The film was directed by James Ivory, produced by Ismail Merchant, Mike Nichols, and John Calley and adapted by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala. It stars Anthony Hopkins as James Stevens and Emma Thompson as Miss Kenton, with James Fox, Christopher Reeve, Hugh Grant, Ben Chaplin, and Lena Headey in supporting roles.

The film was nominated for eight Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Actor (Hopkins), Best Actress (Thompson) and Best Adapted Screenplay (Jhabvala). In 1999, the British Film Institute ranked The Remains of the Day the 64th-greatest British film of the 20th century.[3]


In 1958 post-war Britain, Stevens, the butler of Darlington Hall, receives a letter from recently separated Miss Kenton, a housekeeper two decades ago. Their former employer, the Earl of Darlington, has died a broken man, his reputation destroyed by pre-war support of Germany. He was labeled a traitor and Nazi sympathizer although sharing his position with many others in the mid-1930s.

His stately country house was sold to retired US Congressman, Jack Lewis. Allowed to borrow the Daimler, Stevens sets off to the West Country to try to convince Miss Kenton to return as housekeeper.

A flashback shows Kenton's arrival as housekeeper in the 1930s. The ever-efficient Stevens manages the household well, priding in and deriving his entire identity from his profession. Miss Kenton, equally invaluable, efficient and strong-willed, is warmer and less repressed. They occasionally butt heads, particularly over Stevens's father (now an under-butler) who is failing and no longer able to perform his duties, which Stevens refuses to see. He displays total professionalism by carrying on as his father lies dying.

Relations between Stevens and Kenton eventually thaw, and she clearly shows her feelings. Despite their proximity, Stevens outwardly remains detached; he is dedicated solely as Lord Darlington's butler. Greatly repressed, Miss Kenton embarrasses Stevens catching him reading a romance novel; which he explains is to improve his vocabulary, asking her not to invade his privacy again.

Meanwhile, Darlington Hall is often frequented by politicians, mostly like-minded, fascist-sympathising British and European aristocrats, with the exception of Congressman Lewis, who disagrees with Lord Darlington and his guests. Calling the "gentleman politicians" meddling amateurs, he says "Europe has become the arena of Realpolitik", warning them of impending disaster. Later, aristocratic guest Geoffrey Wren directs a series of political and economic questions to Stevens, who won't answer. Wren claims this shows the lower classes' ignorance, not with a worthy opinion, saying, Q.E.D.

Prime Minister Chamberlain and the German Ambassador meet, seeking appeasement and peace for Nazi Germany. In the midst of these events, and after exposure to Nazi racial laws, Darlington suddenly tells Stevens to dismiss the two newly appointed, refugee German-Jewish maids, despite his protest. Miss Kenton threatens to resign if he does, but later confesses she cannot as she has no family and nowhere to go. She believes that he didn't care about the girls' fate. When later Lord Darlington wants to rehire the maids, neither Stevens nor Miss Kenton can locate them.

Lord Darlington's godson, journalist Reginald Cardinal, is appalled by the secret meetings in Darlington Hall. Concurring with Congressman Lewis's earlier protests, he tells Stevens his uncle is being used by the Nazis. Despite Cardinal's indignation, he does not denounce or criticise his master, feeling it is not his place to judge him.

Eventually, Miss Kenton forms a relationship with a former co-worker, Tom Benn, who proposes and asks her to run a coastal boarding house with him. Miss Kenton tells Stevens as an ultimatum, but he will not admit his feelings, only offering his congratulations. She leaves Darlington Hall prior to the start of WWII. Finding her crying, his response is to call her attention to a neglected domestic task.

En route to meeting Miss Kenton in 1958 in the Daimler, Stevens is mistaken for gentry by locals in a pub, but chooses not to correct them. Doctor Carlisle, local GP, speaks with him, realising he is likely a manservant, though says nothing. Promising to bring fuel the next morning to Stevens's car, he arrives with it, correctly establishing Stevens's identity. Stevens explains his dilemma in the bar and Carlisle, fascinated, asks Stevens what he thought about Lord Darlington's actions. At first denying having even met him, he later admits to having served and respected him. He states that it was not his place to either approve or disapprove, as he was merely a butler. He does, however, confirm that Darlington admitted that his Nazi sympathies were misguided and he had been too gullible. While Lord Darlington was unable to correct his terrible error, he himself is now en route to correct his own.

He meets Miss Kenton (though separated, still Mrs Benn), and they reminisce. Stevens mentions that Lord Darlington's godson, Reginald Cardinal, was killed in the war. He also says Lord Darlington died from a broken heart after the war, after suing a newspaper for libel, losing the suit and his reputation.

Miss Kenton declines the offer to return to Darlington Hall, as she wishes to remain near her pregnant, grown daughter. She may go back to her husband, because, despite being unhappy for many years, he needs her. As they part, they are both quietly upset. Back at Darlington Hall, Lewis asks Stevens if he remembers much of the old days, to which Stevens replies that he was too busy serving. A pigeon then becomes trapped in the hall, and is eventually freed by them both, leaving Stevens and Darlington Hall far behind.



A film adaptation of the novel was originally planned to be directed by Mike Nichols from a script by Harold Pinter. Some of Pinter's script was used in the film, but, while Pinter was paid for his work, he asked to have his name removed from the credits, in keeping with his contract.[a] Christopher C. Hudgins observes: "During our 1994 interview, Pinter told [Steven H.] Gale and me that he had learned his lesson after the revisions imposed on his script for The Handmaid's Tale, which he has decided not to publish. When his script for The Remains of the Day was radically revised by the James IvoryIsmail Merchant partnership, he refused to allow his name to be listed in the credits" (125).[b][c][d] Though no longer the director, Nichols remained associated with the project as one of its producers.

The music was recorded at Windmill Lane Studios in Dublin.


Music Room of Powderham Castle in 1983

A number of English country estates were used as locations for the film, partly owing to the persuasive power of Ismail Merchant, who was able to cajole permission for the production to borrow houses not normally open to the public. Among them were Dyrham Park for the exterior of the house and the driveway, Powderham Castle (staircase, hall, music room, bedroom; used for the aqua-turquoise stairway scenes), Corsham Court (library and dining room) and Badminton House (servants' quarters, conservatory, entrance hall). Luciana Arrighi, the production designer, scouted most of these locations. Scenes were also shot in Weston-super-Mare, which stood in for Clevedon. The pub where Mr Stevens stays is the Hop Pole in Limpley Stoke; the shop featured is also in Limpley Stoke. The pub where Miss Kenton and Mr Benn meet is The George Inn in Norton St Philip.


The character of Sir Geoffrey Wren is based loosely on that of Sir Oswald Mosley, a British fascist active in the 1930s.[4] Wren is depicted as a strict vegetarian, like Hitler.[5] The 3rd Viscount Halifax (later created the 1st Earl of Halifax) also appears in the film. Lord Darlington tells Stevens that Halifax approved of the polish on the silver, and Lord Halifax himself later appears when Darlington meets secretly with the German Ambassador and his aides at night. Halifax was a chief architect of the British policy of appeasement from 1937 to 1939.[6] The character of Congressman Jack Lewis in the film is a composite of two separate American characters in Kazuo Ishiguro's novel: Senator Lewis (who attends the pre-WW2 conference in Darlington Hall), and Mr Farraday, who succeeds Lord Darlington as master of Darlington Hall.


The Remains of the Day
Film score by
Professional ratings
Review scores
Entertainment WeeklyA link

The original score was composed by Richard Robbins. It was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Original Score, but lost to Schindler's List.

Track listing
  1. Opening Titles, Darlington Hall – 7:27
  2. The Keyhole and the Chinaman – 4:14
  3. Tradition and Order – 1:51
  4. The Conference Begins – 1:33
  5. Sei Mir Gegrüsst (Schubert) – 4:13
  6. The Cooks in the Kitchen – 1:34
  7. Sir Geoffrey Wren and Stevens, Sr. – 2:41
  8. You Mean a Great Deal to This House – 2:21
  9. Loss and Separation – 6:19
  10. Blue Moon – 4:57
  11. Sentimental Love Story/Appeasement/In the Rain – 5:22
  12. A Portrait Returns/Darlington Hall/End Credits – 6:54

Critical reception[edit]

The film has a 95% rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 42 reviews, with an average rating of 8.46/10. The consensus states: "Smart, elegant, and blessed with impeccable performances from Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson, The Remains of the Day is a Merchant–Ivory classic."[7] Roger Ebert particularly praised the film, calling it "a subtle, thoughtful movie."[8] In his favorable review for The Washington Post, Desson Howe wrote, "Put Anthony Hopkins, Emma Thompson and James Fox together and you can expect sterling performances."[9] Vincent Canby of The New York Times said, in another favorable review, "Here's a film for adults. It's also about time to recognize that Mr. Ivory is one of our finest directors, something that critics tend to overlook because most of his films have been literary adaptations."[10]

The film was named as one of the best films of 1993 by over 50 critics, making it the fifth-most-acclaimed film of 1993.[11]

Awards and nominations[edit]

The film is #64 at the British Film Institute's "Top 100 British films".

The film was also nominated for the American Film Institute's "100 Years...100 Passions" list.[12]

Year Award Category Nominated work Result Ref.
1993 Academy Awards Best Picture Mike Nichols, Ismail Merchant, John Calley Nominated [13]
Best Director James Ivory Nominated
Best Actor Anthony Hopkins Nominated
Best Actress Emma Thompson Nominated
Best Adapted Screenplay Ruth Prawer Jhabvala Nominated
Best Art Direction Luciana Arrighi, Ian Whittaker Nominated
Best Costume Design Jenny Beavan, John Bright Nominated
Best Original Score Richard Robbins Nominated
1993 Golden Globe Awards Best Motion Picture – Drama Ismail Merchant Nominated [13]
Best Director James Ivory Nominated
Best Actor – Motion Picture Drama Anthony Hopkins Nominated
Best Actress – Motion Picture Drama Emma Thompson Nominated
Best Screenplay Ruth Prawer Jhabvala Nominated
1993 British Academy Film Awards Best Film James Ivory, Ismail Merchant
Mike Nichols, John Calley
Nominated [13]
Best Director James Ivory Nominated
Best Actor Anthony Hopkins Won
Best Actress Emma Thompson Nominated
Best Adapted Screenplay Ruth Prawer Jhabvala Nominated
Best Cinematography Tony Pierce-Roberts Nominated
1993 Writers Guild of America Awards Best Adapted Screenplay Ruth Prawer Jhabvala Nominated [13]
1993 Producers Guild of America Award Best Motion Picture Ismail Merchant, Mike Nichols, John Calley Nominated [13]
1993 Directors Guild of America Award Outstanding Directing – Feature Film James Ivory Nominated [13]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "In November 1994, Pinter wrote, "I've just heard that they are bringing another writer into the "Lolita" film. It doesn't surprise me.' ... Pinter's contract contained a clause to the effect that the film company could bring in another writer, but that in such a case he could withdraw his name (which is exactly the case with [the film] The Remains of the Day-he had insisted on this clause since the bad experience with revisions made to his Handmaid's Tale script); he has never been given any reason as to why another writer was brought in" (Gale 352).
  2. ^ Hudgins adds: "We did not see Pinter's name up in lights when Lyne's Lolita finally made its appearance in 1998. Pinter goes on in the March 13 [1995] letter [to Hudgins] to state that 'I have never been given any reason at all as to why the film company brought in another writer,' again quite similar to the equally ungracious treatment that he received in the Remains of the Day situation" (125).
  3. ^ Cf. the essay on the film The Remains of the Day published in Gale's collection by Edward T. Jones: "Pinter gave me a copy of his typescript for his screenplay, which he revised 24 January 1991, during an interview that I conducted with him in London about his screenplay in May 1992, part of which appeared in 'Harold Pinter: A Conversation' in Literature/Film Quarterly, XXI (1993): 2–9. In that interview, Pinter mentioned that Ishiguro liked the screenplay that he had scripted for a proposed film version of the novel. All references to Pinter's screenplay in the text [of Jones's essay] are to this unpublished manuscript" (107n1).
  4. ^ In his 2008 essay published in The Pinter Review, Hudgins discusses further details about why "Pinter elected not to publish three of his completed film scripts, The Handmaid's Tale, The Remains of the Day and Lolita," all of which Hudgins considers "masterful film scripts" of "demonstrable superiority to the shooting scripts that were eventually used to make the films"; fortunately ("We can thank our various lucky stars"), he says, "these Pinter film scripts are now available not only in private collections but also in the Pinter Archive at the British Library"; in this essay, which he first presented as a paper at the 10th Europe Theatre Prize symposium, Pinter: Passion, Poetry, Politics, held in Turin, Italy, in March 2006, Hudgins "examin[es] all three unpublished film scripts in conjunction with one another" and "provides several interesting insights about Pinter's adaptation process" (132).


  1. ^ a b "The Remains of the Day". BFI. Retrieved 26 October 2019.
  2. ^ "The Remains of the Day". Retrieved 29 September 2010.
  3. ^ British Film Institute - Top 100 British Films (1999). Retrieved August 27, 2016
  4. ^ "Four Weddings actor visits Creebridge". Galloway Gazette. 26 November 2012. Retrieved 8 November 2015.
  5. ^ Giblin, James Cross (2002). The Life and Death of Adolf Hitler. New York: Clarion Books. p. 175. ISBN 9780395903711. vegetarian.
  6. ^ Lee, David (2010). Stanley Melbourne Bruce: Australian Internationalist. London: Continuum. pp. 121–122. ISBN 9780826445667.
  7. ^ "The Remains of the Day". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 16 April 2020.
  8. ^ Ebert, Roger (5 November 1993). "The Remains Of The Day Movie Review (1993) | Roger Ebert". Retrieved 19 September 2013.
  9. ^ "The Remains of the Day". 5 November 1993. Retrieved 19 September 2013.
  10. ^ Canby, Vincent (5 November 1993). "Movie Review – The Remains of the Day – Review/Film: Remains of the Day; Blind Dignity: A Butler's Story". Retrieved 19 September 2013.
  11. ^ McGilligan, Pat; Rowl, Mark (9 January 1994). "86 THUMBS UP! FOR ONCE, THE NATION'S CRITICS AGREE ON THE YEAR'S BEST MOVIES". Retrieved 3 March 2021 – via
  12. ^ "AFI's 100 Years...100 Passions Nominees" (PDF). Retrieved 19 August 2016.
  13. ^ a b c d e f "The Remains of the Day - IMDb". Retrieved 3 March 2021 – via


  • Gale, Steven H. Sharp Cut: Harold Pinter's Screenplays and the Artistic Process. Lexington, Ky.: The University Press of Kentucky, 2003.
  • Gale, Steven H., ed. The Films of Harold Pinter. Albany: SUNY Press, 2001.
  • Hudgins, Christopher C. "Harold Pinter's Lolita: 'My Sin, My Soul'." In The Films of Harold Pinter. Steven H. Gale, ed. Albany, N.Y.: SUNY Press, 2001.
  • Hudgins, Christopher C. "Three Unpublished Harold Pinter Filmscripts: The Handmaid's Tale, The Remains of the Day, Lolita." The Pinter Review: Nobel Prize / Europe Theatre Prize Volume: 2005 – 2008. Francis Gillen with Steven H. Gale, eds. Tampa, Fla.: University of Tampa Press, 2008.

External links[edit]