While somewhat overshadowed by the box-office performance of Howards End (1992), The Remains of the Day received nine Academy Award nominations and finds Merchant and Ivory at the top of their game. On the eve of World War II, almost everyone in The Remains of the Day seems committed to tired traditions that adhere to a rigid formality. Anthony Hopkins masterfully portrays Stevens' proper exterior, communicating the butler's emotional sterility in "real life" situations through small gestures. Emma Thompson beautifully plays Miss Kenton and once again proves the ideal partner for Hopkins. Their failed relationship (failed because it never even gets started) perfectly underlines the regret that saturates The Remains of the Day. The deeper tragedy, however, lies in the fact that Stevens, Miss Kenton, and Lord Darlington (James Fox) all become conscious of the mistakes they have made, but seem incapable of altering their way of life. Social adherence to tradition and class distinctions has led to an inability to adapt to the modern world. The Remains of the Day displays the same close attention to period detail and lovely cinematography that viewers have come to expect from Merchant and Ivory productions, and the screenplay has once again been adapted by the sure hand of Ruth Prawer Jhabvala.
by Ronnie D. Lankford, Jr. review