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The Remains of the Day (film)

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The Remains of the Day
Theatrical-release poster
Directed byJames Ivory
Screenplay by
Based onThe Remains of the Day
by Kazuo Ishiguro
Produced by
CinematographyTony Pierce-Roberts
Edited byAndrew Marcus
Music byRichard Robbins
Color processTechnicolor
Distributed byColumbia Pictures
Release dates
  • 25 October 1993 (1993-10-25) (Premiere)
  • 4 November 1993 (1993-11-04) (London Film Festival)
  • 5 November 1993 (1993-11-05) (United States)
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 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 a critical and box office success and it 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 postwar Britain, Stevens, the butler of Darlington Hall, receives a letter from the former housekeeper, Miss Kenton. Their past employer, the Earl of Darlington, has died a broken man, his reputation destroyed by his pre-Second World War support of Nazi Germany, and his stately country house has been sold to retired US Congressman Jack Lewis. Allowed to borrow the Daimler, Stevens sets off for the West Country to see Miss Kenton for the first time in decades.

A flashback to the 1930s shows Kenton's arrival at Darlington Hall, where the ever-efficient but deeply repressed Stevens derives his entire identity from his profession. He butts heads with the warmer, strong-willed Kenton, particularly when he refuses to acknowledge that his father, now an under-butler, is no longer able to perform his duties.

Displaying total professionalism, Stevens carries on as his father lies dying during Darlington's conference of like-minded fascist-sympathising British and European aristocrats. Also in attendance is Congressman Lewis, who admonishes the "gentleman politicians" as meddling amateurs, advising that "Europe has become the arena of Realpolitik" and warning of impending disaster.

Exposed to Nazi racial laws, Darlington gets Stevens to dismiss two newly appointed refugee German-Jewish maids despite his protest. Kenton threatens to resign but has nowhere to go, and a regretful Darlington is later unable to rehire the maids. Later Stevens is unable to answer an aristocratic guest's questions on global trade and politics, which the aristocrat claims to demonstrate the lower classes' ignorance and inability to govern themselves.

Relations thaw between Stevens and Kenton and she clearly shows her feelings for him, but the outwardly detached Stevens remains dedicated solely to his role as butler. She catches him reading a romance novel, which he explains is to improve his vocabulary, asking her not to invade his privacy again.

Lord Darlington's godson, journalist Reginald Cardinal, arrives on the day of a secret meeting at Darlington Hall between the British Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain, and the German ambassador, Joachim von Ribbentrop. Appalled by his godfather's role in seeking appeasement for Nazi Germany, Cardinal tells Stevens that Darlington is being used by the Nazis, but Stevens feels it is not his place to judge his employer.

Kenton forms a relationship with former co-worker Tom Benn and accepts his proposal of marriage. She informs Stevens as an ultimatum, but he will not admit his feelings and only offers his congratulations. Finding her crying, his only response is to call her attention to a neglected domestic task, and she leaves Darlington Hall before the start of the Second World War.

En route to meeting Kenton in 1958, Stevens is mistaken for the gentry at a pub. Doctor Carlisle, a local GP, helps him refuel the Daimler and deduces that he is actually a manservant, asking his thoughts about Lord Darlington's actions. Denying having even met him, Stevens later admits to having served and respected him but Darlington confessed that his Nazi sympathies had been misguided and naive.

Stevens declares that, although Lord Darlington was unable to correct his error, he is attempting to correct his own. He meets Kenton, who has separated from her husband and runs a boarding house on the coast. They reminisce that Lord Darlington died from a broken heart after suing a newspaper for libel, losing the suit and his reputation, and Stevens mentions that Cardinal was killed in the war.

Kenton, now Mrs Benn, declines to resume her position at Darlington Hall, wishing to remain near her pregnant daughter and, despite years of unhappiness, thinking about going back to her husband. Stevens supposes they may never meet again and they part fondly but are both quietly upset, Miss Kenton visibly tearful as her bus pulls away.

Stevens returns to Darlington Hall, where Lewis asks if he remembers the old days, and Stevens replies that he was too busy serving. The two men free a pigeon from the house and it flies away, leaving Stevens and Darlington Hall far behind. The image then rises slowly, moving away from the large building, alone in the heart of the vast estate, surrounded by valleys and woods.





A film adaptation of the novel was originally planned to be directed by Mike Nichols from a script by Harold Pinter. Meryl Streep’s then-agent, Sam Cohn, and the director sold her on the plum role of Miss Kenton. Both Meryl and Jeremy Irons read for Nichols, but the filmmaker opted not to cast them in roles later filled by Emma Thompson (ten years Meryl’s junior) and Anthony Hopkins (twenty years Emma’s senior). Cohn, who was also Nichols’s agent, didn’t make it clear to Meryl that she was no longer a candidate for Miss Kenton, she only learned later, after reading about Thompson’s casting. Shortly thereafter Streep made headlines after she fired her long time, east coast agent, signing with rival agent Bryan Lourd at the powerful Creative Artists Agency.[4] 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.[5] Wren is depicted as a strict vegetarian, like Hitler.[6] 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 the chief architect of the British policy of appeasement from 1937 to 1939.[7] Coincidentally, Halifax was born at Powderham Castle (above). 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 film had its premiere on 25 October 1993 at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in Los Angeles.[8]

It was the opening night film at the London Film Festival on 4 November 1993 and opened in 94 theatres in the United States on 5 November.[9][10]

Critical reception


The film has a 96% rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 45 reviews, with an average rating of 8.5/10. 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."[11] At Metacritic, which assigns a weighted average out of 100 to critics' reviews, it received a score of 86 based on 12 reviews.[12] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A−" on an A+ to F scale.[13]

Roger Ebert particularly praised the film, calling it "a subtle, thoughtful movie."[14] 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."[15] 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."[16]

The film was named one of the best films of 1993 by over 50 critics, making it the fifth-most-acclaimed film of 1993.[17]

Awards and nominations

Award Category Recipient(s) Result
20/20 Awards Best Actor Anthony Hopkins Nominated
Best Actress Emma Thompson Nominated
Best Adapted Screenplay Ruth Prawer Jhabvala Nominated
Best Costume Design Jenny Beavan and John Bright Nominated
Best Original Score Richard Robbins Nominated
Academy Awards[18] Best Picture John Calley, Mike Nichols and Ismail Merchant Nominated
Best Director James Ivory Nominated
Best Actor Anthony Hopkins Nominated
Best Actress Emma Thompson Nominated
Best Screenplay – Based on Material Previously Produced or Published Ruth Prawer Jhabvala Nominated
Best Art Direction Art Direction: Luciana Arrighi;
Set Decoration: Ian Whittaker
Best Costume Design Jenny Beavan and John Bright Nominated
Best Original Score Richard Robbins Nominated
Awards Circuit Community Awards Best Actress in a Leading Role Emma Thompson Nominated
Best Costume Design Jenny Beavan and John Bright Nominated
Best Production Design Luciana Arrighi and Ian Whittaker Nominated
British Academy Film Awards[19] Best Film Ismail Merchant, Mike Nichols, John Calley, and James Ivory Nominated
Best Direction James Ivory Nominated
Best Actor in a Leading Role Anthony Hopkins Won
Best Actress in a Leading Role Emma Thompson Nominated
Best Adapted Screenplay Ruth Prawer Jhabvala Nominated
Best Cinematography Tony Pierce-Roberts Nominated
Chicago Film Critics Association Awards[20] Best Actor Anthony Hopkins Nominated
Best Actress Emma Thompson Nominated
Best Screenplay Ruth Prawer Jhabvala Nominated
Dallas–Fort Worth Film Critics Association Awards Best Film Nominated
Best Actor Anthony Hopkins Won
David di Donatello Awards Best Foreign Film James Ivory Nominated
Best Foreign Actor Anthony Hopkins Won
Best Foreign Actress Emma Thompson Won
Directors Guild of America Awards[21] Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures James Ivory Nominated
Evening Standard British Film Awards Best Actress Emma Thompson (Also for Much Ado About Nothing) Won
Golden Globe Awards[22] Best Motion Picture – Drama Nominated
Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama Anthony Hopkins Nominated
Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama Emma Thompson Nominated
Best Director – Motion Picture James Ivory Nominated
Best Screenplay – Motion Picture Ruth Prawer Jhabvala Nominated
Goya Awards Best European Film James Ivory Nominated
Kansas City Film Critics Circle Awards[23] Best Actor Anthony Hopkins Won
Best Actress Emma Thompson Won
London Film Critics Circle Awards[24][25] British Film of the Year Won
Director of the Year James Ivory Won
Actor of the Year Anthony Hopkins Won
Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards[26] Best Actor Anthony Hopkins (Also for Shadowlands) Won
Movieguide Awards Best Movie for Mature Audiences Won
Nastro d'Argento Best Foreign Director James Ivory Nominated
National Board of Review Awards[27] Top Ten Films 3rd Place
Best Actor Anthony Hopkins (Also for Shadowlands) Won
National Society of Film Critics Awards[28] Best Actor 3rd Place
New York Film Critics Circle Awards[29] Best Actor Runner-up
Best Actress Emma Thompson (Also for Much Ado About Nothing) Runner-up
Producers Guild of America Awards[30] Outstanding Producer of Theatrical Motion Pictures Mike Nichols, John Calley, and Ismail Merchant Nominated
Robert Awards Best Foreign Film James Ivory Won
Southeastern Film Critics Association Awards[31] Top Ten Films 3rd Place
Best Actor Anthony Hopkins (Also for Shadowlands) Won
Turkish Film Critics Association Awards Best Foreign Film 7th Place
USC Scripter Awards[32] Ruth Prawer Jhabvala (screenwriter); Kazuo Ishiguro (author) Nominated
Writers Guild of America Awards[33] Best Screenplay – Based on Material Previously Produced or Published Ruth Prawer Jhabvala Nominated


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

See also



  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. Archived from the original on 6 March 2016. 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. ^ Carlson, Erin (24 September 2019). Queen Meryl: The Iconic Roles, Heroic Deeds, and Legendary Life of Meryl Streep. New York, NY: Hachette Books. pp. 259–260. ISBN 9780316485289.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: date and year (link)
  5. ^ "Four Weddings actor visits Creebridge". Galloway Gazette. 26 November 2012. Retrieved 8 November 2015.
  6. ^ Giblin, James Cross (2002). The Life and Death of Adolf Hitler. New York: Clarion Books. p. 175. ISBN 9780395903711. vegetarian.
  7. ^ Lee, David (2010). Stanley Melbourne Bruce: Australian Internationalist. London: Continuum. pp. 121–122. ISBN 9780826445667.
  8. ^ The Remains of the Day at the AFI Catalog of Feature Films
  9. ^ Brown, Geoff (3 November 1993). "Now, heaven knows, anything goes". The Times. p. 35.
  10. ^ The Remains of the Day at Box Office Mojo
  11. ^ "The Remains of the Day". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 16 March 2023.
  12. ^ "The Remains of the Day Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved 28 February 2022.
  13. ^ "Home". CinemaScore. Retrieved 28 February 2022.
  14. ^ Ebert, Roger (5 November 1993). "The Remains Of The Day Movie Review (1993) | Roger Ebert". Rogerebert.suntimes.com. Retrieved 19 September 2013.
  15. ^ "The Remains of the Day". Washingtonpost.com. 5 November 1993. Retrieved 19 September 2013.
  16. ^ Canby, Vincent (5 November 1993). "Movie Review – The Remains of the Day – Review/Film: Remains of the Day; Blind Dignity: A Butler's Story". Movies.nytimes.com. Retrieved 19 September 2013.
  17. ^ 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 www.washingtonpost.com.
  18. ^ "The 66th Academy Awards". Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Retrieved 2 July 2017.
  19. ^ "Film in 1994". British Academy of Film and Television Arts. Retrieved 2 July 2017.
  20. ^ "1988-2013 Award Winner Archives". Chicago Film Critics Association. January 2013. Retrieved 24 August 2021.
  21. ^ "46th DGA Awards". Directors Guild of America Awards. Retrieved 5 July 2021.
  22. ^ "The Remains of the Day – Golden Globes". HFPA. Retrieved 5 July 2021.
  23. ^ "KCFCC Award Winners – 1990-99". kcfcc.org. 14 December 2013. Retrieved 15 May 2021.
  24. ^ "Critics' Circle Film of the Year: 1980–2010". London Film Critics' Circle. 4 December 2010. Retrieved 2 July 2017.
  25. ^ "London Film Critics Circle Awards 1994". Mubi. Retrieved 5 July 2021.
  26. ^ "The 19th Annual Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards". Los Angeles Film Critics Association. Retrieved 5 July 2021.
  27. ^ "1993 Award Winners". National Board of Review. Retrieved 5 July 2021.
  28. ^ "Past Awards". National Society of Film Critics. 19 December 2009. Retrieved 2 July 2017.
  29. ^ "1993 New York Film Critics Circle Awards". New York Film Critics Circle. Retrieved 5 July 2021.
  30. ^ Cox, Dan (19 January 1994). "Laurel noms announced". Variety. Archived from the original on 23 September 2017. Retrieved 16 October 2017.
  31. ^ "1993 SEFA Awards". sefca.net. Retrieved 15 May 2021.
  32. ^ "Past Scripter Awards". USC Scripter Award. Retrieved 8 November 2021.
  33. ^ Fox, David J. (14 March 1994). "'Schindler's' Adds a Pair to the List : Awards: Spielberg epic takes more honors--for screenwriting and editing. Jane Campion's 'The Piano' also wins". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 3 July 2017.
  34. ^ "AFI's 100 Years...100 Passions Nominees" (PDF). Retrieved 19 August 2016.


  • 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.