Vault Reviews — September 10, 2011 at 6:00 am



For such a high brow film I don’t think I could have come upon this film in a more low brow fashion – having been turned on to see it by Tank in Rocknrolla watching it in his SUV. I remember thinking to myself, “What movie is this? It’s got Anthony Hopkins and Hugh Grant in it.” Then I got lost in a tangent about how strange it was that Grant and Hopkins hadn’t appeared in more movies together. I didn’t come up with an answer for that – but I did figure out what the movie was and managed to dig it up on Netflix.

The bulk of the film takes place in England just before the second World War at a stately manor where several high level confabs are taking place with regards to how the powers that be should appease Germany’s mounting power and aggressiveness. The head butler of this manor is a very proper and emotionally stunted man who keeps himself so bottled up that he can’t even express sadness at the loss of his father, the woman he loves, or any of the shady dealings that go on under his roof.

I was impressed by the film’s fabulously rich British backdrop, its opulence – but I couldn’t help feel there was something sinister going on in the background… there was something about it that had the air of a British period film written by someone from Japan. Well, perhaps my senses weren’t all that attuned, but I’m not exaggerating when I say I was reminded of Never Let Me Go at times, and that’s when I realized that it was adapted from a novel by Kazuo Ishiguro. It was so strange how both films shared the same dark, almost gothic undertones despite being so distinctly different in their approaches and subject matter.

So there’s depth here and some great intertextuality when you match it up against Never Let Me Go, and it yet again opens up a window into a world I cannot conceive, but fall for completely; a world I have never encountered firsthand but I am sure has to have existed after seeing it in so many movies – period pieces like this serving as highly stylized archeological records. It does rank up there with films like Gosford Park, although perhaps employing subtlety in place of GP‘s complexity. However, I don’t think I could bear to watch this film if it didn’t have this incredibly dark cloud hanging over it. The British stiff upper lip is confounding enough for me, but Hopkins’ Stevens takes to an extreme that was hard to bear. Emotionally stunted Brits. “Dude! Ex! Press! Your! Feelings!” I can not hear someone confessing their love from the comfort of my own home, I don’t need to go to the movies for it. I don’t need to go to the movies to miss out on the words these characters aren’t saying. The payoff that would have left me satisfied would have been if he finally snapped after being so bottled up for so long, like Felicia’s Journey or something.

As an all time classic, I don’t know if this one qualifies, but it was certainly the last thing I expected to come spinning out of Rocknrolla, which I highly recommend you go digging for, but that’s another review entirely…





  • I don’t think this is an all time great film but it’s definitely up there for me in terms of overall quality of performances and character examination. I just love the non-verbal facial cues from Hopkins and Thompson. You can just feel the power of their repressed emotions.

    RocknRolla is definitely not a double feature pairing I’d recommend for this one.

    • I dig the idea of watching them in tandem as an exercise of degrees of separation – maybe throw Never Let Me Go into the mix, and maybe Love Actually for the Emma Thompson/Hugh Grant connection…

  • I think it’s one of the great films of the 1990s. Period.

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