James Stevens (Anthony Hopkins) is the head butler at Darlington Hall, a position he takes great pride in as he is in charge of the staff who work there. But as a man who is a stickular for the rules which leads to some hard decisions when it comes to his ageing father who he hires. He also finds himself dealing with Miss Kenton (Emma Thompson) a housekeeper who ends up feeling some thing for him. But serving Lord Darlington (James Fox) also comes with its problems as he is a Nazi sympathizer who tries to do a deal with Hitler. After years of serving Lord Darlington he finds himself employed by Mr Lewis (Christopher Reeve) a retired United States Congressman who has bought the estate.
Anthony Hopkins is unique, yes we all are unique but when it comes to acting Anthony Hopkins is special as he has an aura around him, away of acting which not only makes you forget you are watching a movie but draws you into what ever character he is playing be it a serial killer, a stroke victim in America or here in "The Remains of the Day" a butler who is steeped in the tradition of working in service. He makes the character of James Stevens a fascinating person who whilst loyal to the traditions of what he does is not so cold that he is unfeeling. It means that we get to see his struggles in moments of quietness be it his conflict when it comes to his ageing and ill father as well as his feelins for Miss Kenton let alone his feelings when it comes to his bosses political leanings.
Now of course "The Remains of the Day" is more than just the Anthony Hopkins show as we have a storyline which takes us from pre-war to the 50s to Steven's being asked to do a job of a father for Lod Darlington's nephew to dealing with those who in the 50s would like to know more about what Lord Darlington was like. And of course we have the story of James Stevens and Miss Kenton as without either of them saying have some sort of feelings for each other which they keep hidden behind formality. It leads to what for me is one of Emma Thompson's finest performances as she feeds brilliantly off of Hopkins' stunning performance. Normally I would say that Hopkins and Thompson were robbed when they didn't win an Oscar for their acting but when this movie was up against " Schindler's List", "Philadelphia" and "The Piano" well they are three very big movies with some very big performances.
I am going to be honest as I could go on and on about the acting in "The Remains of the Day" as it is some of the finest I have ever watched with a brilliant cast all bringing some thing different to their roles and each giving Hopkins the chance to bring some thing different to the character of Stevens. As such when you have Hugh Grant giving his character a level of energy and enthusiasm which other characters don't have Stevens respons to him differently to others such as James Fox or later on Christopher Reeve.
What this all boils down to is that "The Remains of the Day" is a beautiful movie one with beautiful story, beautiful locations and cotumes as well as simply but nice cinematography. But this is a movie where you just sit back and enjoy the unique talent of Anthony Hopkins and how brilliantly Emma Thompson feeds off of him. And it never grows boring as you can watch this again and again and be mesmerised by Hopkins and his talent for expressing emotion in subtle ways which bring to life a movie.