A butler in a 1930s aristocratic household has dedicated himself to serving his master, putting duty above all else and repressing his affection for the housekeeper, who also happens to be in love with him.
On the outbreak of war, the nobleman’s Nazi sympathies come to light, marking a change of heart in the old servant, who looks back with misgivings about the loyalty that may have cost him dearly.
This impeccable adaptation of Kazuo Ishiguro’s Booker Prize-winning novel stars Anthony Hopkins as the emotionally repressed butler and Emma Thompson as the housekeeper he possibly loves.
Framed in flashbacks, the story is an English twist on Jean Renoir’s classic La Règle du Jeu, a broad view of a narrow class of aristocrats on the verge of self-destruction.
Co-starring James Fox as the fascistic English lord and Christopher Reeve as an American diplomat (the past and present owners of Darlington Hall), it is as much a study in power and politics as it is Hopkins’s blinkered view of the world from behind the gleaming silver salvers.
The 1930s and 40s settings are immaculately staged, and, unlike James Ivory’s earlier dramatisations of EM Forster, this picture has real backbone, with Ivory’s direction alive to every nuance and chink of the sherry glasses.
Sir Leonard Bax
Sir Geoffrey Wren