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The Remains of the Day

Movie review by
Alistair Lawrence, Common Sense Media
The Remains of the Day Movie Poster Image
Classic period drama tackles issues of gender and class.
  • PG
  • 1993
  • 134 minutes

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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Hard work creates success. Teamwork. Learn from your mistakes. Express your feelings. Some examples of snobbery and patronizing. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

The servants at a lordly manor show dedication to their roles and their colleagues. The period setting minimizes portrayals of diversity, gender, class equality, with women and the working class portrayed as inferior to men and the upper classes. Some members of higher society talk down to the servants in a patronizing manner. A character is revealed to be a Nazi sympathizer.

Violence

Reference to Nazi concentration camps.

Sex

Character is asked to explain sex to a younger man in a comedic scene. Kissing.

Language

"Jews," "gypsies," and "negros" are referred to when discussing Nazi concentration camps. Anti-Semitic attitudes expressed by some characters. "Dammit" used as an exclamation.

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Drinking and smoking, both in moderation, inside the home, after work, and at formal dinners. Character references being drunk.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Remains of the Day is an outstanding period drama adapted from Kazuo Ishiguro's Booker Prize-winning novel. It stars Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson and deals with issues of gender and class. Not surprisingly for the setting/time period, women and the working class are portrayed as being lesser than men and the upper classes. And some of Lord Darlington's (James Fox) guests talk to his staff in a rude and patronizing way. There's some discussion about "Jews," "gypsies," and "negros" in the context of Nazism in the lead up to World War II, and a character is revealed to be a Nazi sympathizer. Characters drink and smoke socially, but never to excess. One character references being drunk, but he's exaggerating and not behaving in an antisocial way. There's some kissing, and two characters briefly reference sex in a misunderstanding about "the birds and the bees." Strong language is minimal, with "dammit" as extreme as it gets.

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What's the story?

THE REMAINS OF THE DAY tells the story of the owners and servants of an English manor during the 1920s and 1930s, with some scenes occurring after World War II. Based on Kazuo Ishiguro's Booker Prize-winning novel, the story has at its center the butler, Stevens (Anthony Hopkins), and housekeeper Miss Kenton (Emma Thompson). The movie examines their relationship: what brought them together, what drove them apart, and Stevens' eventual attempt to reunite with Miss Kenton and confront his past mistakes. It's essentially a love story, but it also documents the buildup to and aftermath of WWII, along with looking at how the war affected people's lives.

Is it any good?

A stellar cast -- led by Hopkins and Thompson -- delivers a masterfully restrained story that resonates with human themes and historical significance. Much of this may be lost on younger viewers, but, even on its surface, The Remains of the Day is deftly acted and unfolds to show both the horror of WWII in a nongraphic way and how rigid power structures and working conditions cause people to act in a way they later regret. 

The characters are all sympathetic, even when they're in conflict with one another -- their humanity and goodwill toward each other is what drives the story forward, rather than a specific "goal" that needs to be achieved. This is a study of the resolution of a relationship between two former colleagues who are unsure about how to act on their feelings for each other. It's a timeless tale with a nostalgic rather than depressing tone. Fans of Downton Abbey will find much to enjoy in this British classic.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about gender roles in The Remains of the Day. How does the way things are in the movie compare to today? Why is it important that men and women have equal rights?

  • Did you learn anything about WWII from this film that you didn't already know? Discuss the character of Lord Darlington. Why is he problematic?

  • Why is it important that the staff of the manor takes pride in their work? How does their teamwork help them form meaningful relationships? Can you give examples from your own life of good teamwork?

  • Discuss the relationship between Stevens and Miss Kenton. How do they express any romantic feelings they have for each other? Is there a right way to express your affection for someone else?

  • How do certain characters learn from their mistakes? Why is it important to acknowledge when you’ve done something that you regret and/or that hurt someone else?

Movie details

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