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Popcorn & Prejudice: A Movie Blog

Seattle Times writer Moira Macdonald muses on moviegoing. Email Moira: mmacdonald@seattletimes.com.

August 20, 2009 at 10:26 AM

Still in love with “The Remains of the Day”

Remember, back in 1993, when “The Remains of the Day” had settled into a nice long run at the Guild 45th, and the theater sign would say things like “Ninth Subtle Week”? I loved this Merchant/Ivory movie (based on a wonderful novel by Kazuo Ishiguro) then, and I love it now; it’s one of those movies I can never not watch. It was on some cable channel last night and I caught the last hour while waiting for a phone call. The performances of Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson — two of my favorite actors — break my heart every time in this artfully understated story of love, loyalty and regret. He is the butler in a grand English country house, beginning in the years before World War II; she is the young housekeeper. They have fallen in love in a way barely visible to them or those around them.
Here’s a scene, from near the end of the movie, as the two reunite after not seeing each other for many years. Her life has moved on, not always happily; his has not, and you see the ache of regret in his eyes as he realizes he has come too late — they have missed each other in time. It’s astonishing to me that the actor who played Hannibal Lecter can be so vulnerable and delicate here, and that Thompson is able to put so many shades of meaning into her dialogue (adapted from the novel, with great wisdom, by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala) without ever sounding scripted. They both know that little of the day remains; they know there is much they can never say to each other. Beautiful scene; beautiful movie.

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